Pack House

Step One: First things first… Harvesting

Although this is called “Step One”, this is the end of the 12-month long process of nurturing and caring for our crop. And as such, an extremely important step, possibly the most critical part of the fruit cycle!

For us the first part in the harvesting process is making sure our pickers are cared for. To this end we provide a daily meal supplement that is high in protein and vitamins at no cost to the personnel. Clean water for drinking and washing hands as well as flushable ablution is provided, right next to the harvesting operation, clean and convenient! We make sure that new, workable equipment in terms of picking scissors and lightweight aluminium ladders are allocated to the harvesting teams. At the start of the season new workers are issued with PPE overall. All this shows our workers that we care for them and they in turn need to treat our fruit with care.

Our fruit are picked with scissors and cotton gloves into soft canvas bags. The bags are carefully emptied into 400kg plastic crates that are maintained and cleaned on a regular basis to restrict contamination and damage to our fruit. The crates are transported onto state-of-the-art harvesting wagons with oversized soft wheels to limit potential damage during transport from the orchard to the pack house. Our wagons are covered to protect against phytosanitary pests and dust.

Step Two: The Tipping Point… Tipping, Washing and Treatment

We use a dry tipping method, where our fruit is tipped directly onto soft rollers to ensure zero damage to the fruit. From here it moves through a high-pressure spray section to remove any foreign matter (leaves, dirt) from the fruit and, more importantly, sterilises and sanitises the outside of the fruit. We use a natural clove oil product in the water to achieve this.

From here the undersized fruit are mechanically removed and now the fruit moves through the chemical treatment flooder. This flooder can apply any registered chemical used in the industry, but in our pack house we are moving away from harsh chemicals and only apply warm clove-oil mixture in this section for most of our varieties.

During the next phase we thoroughly dry our fruit, prior to the waxing process. Our wax spray application process is computer controlled and the wax is applied with 100% horse hair brushes. We use only 100% natural wax with Carnuba and Shellac.

We are now ready to grade and size our fruit…

Step Three: Sizing, Grading and Packing

Our state of the art MAF Roda Global Scan sizer now sorts our fruit according to size, weight and quality (markings).

We pack our fruit into various types of cartons including the following:
A15C     Telescopic cartons
D15D     Open Top (Display) cartons
E10D      Open Top (Display) cartons
J60B       Bins
A07        Open Top (Display) cartons
Mesh Pockets

80% of our export volume (class 1 and class 2) are packed into A15C Telescopic cartons by our brand new Gossamer PP-Twin Place Packing machines. Our fruit are now packed onto wooden export approved pallets by a computer-controlled ABB robot and machine combination palletising station. This station can palletise 16 unique pallets simultaneously.

Step Four: Inspection and Dispatching

We treat all our fruit as special market fruit, where all pallets are inspected as per special market requirements. After the inspection the pallets are securely loaded onto tautliner trucks, covered and ready for the 12 to 16 hour journey to the Durban port where they are immediately placed under cooling.

Our dwell time (the time that our fruit spends in the cold store, from the time that our fruit is taken in at the cold store up to the time that the fruit is loaded into 40ft reefer containers to ship) is 7 days. This is a huge achievement and saves not only costs but increases the shelf life of our produce! Our ordering system from pack house level is geared to reduce wasted time between packing and shipping.

Step Five: Marketing and Exporting

Katlego Sitrus is an export company that exports only our own fruit (and only our own grown fruit at that…). We work especially hard at building a good brand with good, consistent fruit. We put good fruit in a box and focus on giving our customers timeous feedback and accurate information.