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Packaging and handling systems

This article deals with that part of the supply chain where the product is packaged for marketing. It includes cold storage, packaging (includes wood-, biodegradable packaging and recycling), scales and weighing equipment, general handling systems and services.

This page deals with that part of the supply chain where the product is packaged for marketing.

“Packaging” can include rigid and flexible plastic containers, cardboard containers, plastic bulk bins, punnets and trays for fruit and vegetables, sachet machines, tinplate pails and cans and other metal containers, polyfoam, polystyrene, as well as the equipment used prepare the product for the market.

A walk along any fresh produce market floor will emphasise the role of packaging in promoting fresh produce. Nothing looks better than a neatly stacked row of pallets boasting an attractive, branded, quality product for sale. (The contrast is brown, unattractive cartons, often bent and buckled, offering inferior quality to the cheap-line buyer).

Labelling legislation came into effect from 2012, governing the use of terms like “free range”, “organic”, “free range” etc. The legislation stems from the Department of Health’s Labelling and Advertising of Foodstuffs (regulation R146/2010), but detailing and enforcing these protocols is the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD). Coupled with the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), it means that labelling of products will require more thought, accuracy and caution than in the past.

The development of Africa’s handling systems and cold chain potential is vital in promoting intra-Africa trade.

Packaging in agriculture

  • A major trend in the food industry is to make packaging more environmentally friendly and to increase the rate of recycling.
  • Local fresh produce buyers have refined logistics to where produce is packed in the field and stays in that container all the way through to the retailer’s shelf.
  • Bulk bins are used, but this is for produce that is intended for juicing.
  • Computerisation (bar coding) makes it possible for the producer or purchaser to trace any pallet, bulk bin or carton from the farm to the supermarket throughout the supply chain. For high value products RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Discs) tags are increasingly being used to counter fraud and control inventories.
  • Some of the repacking takes place overseas for two reasons: (1) to recheck the quality of the fruit received, and (2) to react quicker to the market demands.
Source: Packaging SA

Read about requirements for Food Business Operators (FBOs) on the Directorate Food Safety and Quality Assurance pages at Packhouses are included in this category.

Some notes


The International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures Guidelines for regulating wood-packaging material in international trade, ISPM 15, covers wood-packaging material such as pallets, dunnage, crating, packing blocks, drums, cases, loading boards, pallet collars and skids, which can be present in any imported/exported consignments. Treated wood-packaging material should bear the appropriate International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) mark to certify that the wood-packaging material has been subjected to the approved phytosanitary measure.



See also the following:

Role players

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FoodBev SETA – Packaging operations are included in FoodBev’s learning programmes. Find accredited training providers on the FoodBev website.
SA Agri Academy – Packaging and packaging requirements is included in the training done on technical market access requirements.
PALS (Partners in Agri Land Solutions) – Value chain projects and training include pack houses
Institute of Packaging SA (IPSA) – The organisation is also a voluntary body focusing on industry professionalism via education.

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Further reference:

Training and Research

  • Find the link to the “National Certificate: Fruit Packing and Grading Processes” qualification on the AgriSETA website,

Cold storage

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Websites and publications

Visit websites mentioned earlier on this page.

  • A Handbook of Packaging Technology is a “most valuable information source for the African packaging industry” and is the prescribed text book for students at the Institute of Packaging SA.
  • Find packaging articles and reviews at
  • Another publication is Packaging & Print Media. Visit
  • Food & Beverage Reporter, which includes Packaging Reporter. See
  • put out a weekly retail newsletter which includes a packaging heading. Visit
  • Book thirteen of the series Training manuals: cooperatives is called “Packaging, Pricing & Storage”. The books can be viewed at Also find the Info Pak “Regulating wood packaging material”.

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