How Cathay Pacific Cargo ensures farm-to-table fruit from North East Asia to Hong Kong

Air link brings Taiwanese fruits to consumers despite pandemic flight restrictions

It’s not just an army that marches on its stomach. Hongkongers’ travels are often predicated by their appetites – one reason why Japan and Taiwan China are such popular destinations, and why their produce is held in such high regard.

But the pandemic and the associated restrictions have put an end to gastronomic journeys in Asia, for the time being. This limitation is something that Cathay has identified – and acted on. Now, customers of the Cathay shop in Hong Kong are able to order seasonal produce, delivered directly to their door as fulfilled by Cathay Pacific Cargo.

To date this year, the produce on offer has included cherries from Australia and an array of fruit and vegetables from Japan and Taiwan China. Once packed, the fruit can be loaded and flown to Hong Kong on the same day, arriving in the evening to be delivered the following morning. That’s from farm to table in two days, in most cases.

Tony Jiang, Cargo Manager Taiwan, has been involved in ensuring that produce from the island gets to Hong Kong homes safely and in good condition. Work started in the spring, supplying vegetable trays to the city when cross-border trucking made it harder to source fresh vegetables in Hong Kong. Now the focus is on fruit. ‘The lychees, mangoes, sugar apples, tomatoes and wax apples are all very sweet and of good quality,’ he says.

The current offer in the Cathay shop features pineapple and passion fruit, and the summer selections will be based around tropical fruits such as lychees and dragon fruit. Since the season of each fruit varies, Cathay curates a selection approximately every month, choosing what’s tasting best for its Hong Kong-based members.

Perhaps surprisingly, fruit transportation handling is easier than vegetables. ‘Fruit and vegetables are packaged in different ways,’ says Jiang. ‘Vegetables have more cooling requirements, which increases the cost of transportation. Fruit can just go with ordinary packing and be transported at room temperature – there is no need for a cold-chain container. As the temperature of the belly hold on aircraft is quite low, around 7-8 degrees Celsius during flight, there is no need for additional cooling.’

The fruit orders are prepacked for home delivery before they depart, adding extra protection from bumps during transport and loading. But as the shipments are treated as general cargo and fruit is delicate, additional precautions are taken. ‘We generally use an AKE container to transport fruit, so that they don’t get damaged during the shipment process,’ says Jiang. Additionally, the staff at the terminal will add packing materials to prevent the boxes moving around in the container.

Dolphin Logistics Executive Vice-chairman Kevin Cheng and Senior General Manager of Air Cargo Export Candy Hsu

So far the Taiwanese products have been supplied by TangZi Fruits, with export process being handled by Dolphin Logistics, which takes a pride in the island’s produce, and is pleased to be working with Cathay Pacific. ‘Taiwan is known as the “Kingdom of Fruits”,’ says Candy Hsu, Senior General Manager of Air Cargo Export at Dolphin. ‘The excellent quality of the fruit has always been appreciated by visitors and now it’s loved by people all over the world.’

Jiang estimates that his Cargo team is exporting around three tonnes of fruit a month for home delivery in Hong Kong, spread across four weekly containers with about 750kg in each shipment. But volume is not the goal, it’s end quality – something that TangZi Fruits, which works with producers, appreciates.

TangZi Fruits Vice-President Andy Lin

‘We aim to provide the best quality and freshest fruit to consumers,’ says TangZi Fruits Vice-President Andy Lin. ‘As a business partner, Cathay Pacific Cargo is professional, friendly and fast. They provide a customer-centric service, and always look for the best-quality products for their customers.’

For Jiang, the satisfaction lies in successfully linking up quality local produce with an appreciative audience. ‘We know that Hong Kong people cannot come here to enjoy our produce, so we are delighted to deliver it direct to their door for them to enjoy,’ he says. It’s a delicious little slice of travel, freshly packed and flown straight to your home.’