End-to-End Process of Food Exports and Imports

Food export and food import

Whenever food is brought into a certain country or a particular jurisdiction, it’s imported. When food is dispatched in the opposite direction, it’s exported. 

The food we consume in the UK is not simply from just around the corner. No. Instead, food frequently has to travel. And frequently, food must travel a long way. A single example of this is kiwis: Kiwis, in general, come from New Zealand. The distance between the UK and New Zealand? Approximately 18,400 km (11,430 miles). 

A further example? Bananas. The banana supply in the UK mostly arises from Latin America, inclusive and particularly with respect to Ecuador. In Ecuador, the country responsible for producing the largest amount of exported bananas worldwide (the other banana export leaders being Philippines, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Guatemala), far more bananas are grown than their own population can possibly consume. So what do they do with the excess? Sell to countries such as the UK.

Believe it or not but the bananas we eat in the UK are often at least one year old and they have travelled no less than 9,200 km (5,700 miles) before they end up on the shelves in our supermarkets. 

The Varying Stages of the Supply Chain

At times, the food supply chain is fairly variable in nature. This supply chain depends on whether the food in question is already edible or whether it must be processed beforehand. It also depends on whether the grower is supplying locally or whether the product must be dispatched for packaging and transport. 

Nevertheless, in the simplest terms, the food supply chain, or the journey from farm to fork, can be broken down into five key stages. When categorised into five stages, it’s also possible to measure and then evaluate the reasons why food is frequently wasted throughout the variable stages.


The producer grows, cultivates, or develops the food in question. There are local and international guidelines as well as laws and regulations in place that are restrictive in nature. For example, food must have a certain appearance and there are quality standards that must be adhered to, including colour, shape, and/or size. In the EU, there are rigid market standards for the following produce meaning producers can only sell the produce if it meets the particular requirements:

    • Apples
    • Pears
    • Citrus fruit
    • Kiwifruit
    • Peaches and nectarines
    • Strawberries
    • Grapes
    • Tomatoes
    • Lettuce
    • Sweet peppers

2. Handling and Storage

After harvesting the product, it must be washed and then prepared. Depending on the product it may not yet be ready for consumption. Take bananas, for example. Bananas are harvested when they are green since strictly controlled environments are used to induce the ripening stage. 

Another example is the humble potato. Before they are packed for dispatch, potatoes must be cleaned and prepared. Some potatoes are packed directly into bags. They are then loaded and transported to a storage facility prior to distribution. Other potatoes and sent to a processing factory. At the processing factory, the potatoes are cut to make crisps, French fries, potato salads, and so forth. 

3.Processing and Packaging

Food products must meet numerous quality control requirements and there are times that these requirements, or standards, are there to ensure that packaging is more simplistic. Some requirements are set in place by the EU parliament or by localised governments. Others are in place due to the preferences of the retailers.

Why so? It’s because the seller wishes to trade the best-looking produce. Regardless that a cucumber that’s crooked tastes exactly the same as a straight one, retailers have reasons to believe that consumers will avoid purchasing crooked cucumbers in favour of straight ones. 

As for meat processing and the plants responsible for this, animals are sent by the farmer to the meat processing plant, at which point the animal is slaughtered, butchered, and, depending on the product, it is then processed and made into sausages, bacon, salami, etc.

All forms of processed food must go through a processing plant. This includes: 

  • Meat products (sausages, bacon, minced meat, cold cuts)
  • All forms of convenience food (soups, ready-made-meals, pies, and more)
  • Cakes and biscuits
  • Bread
  • Butter and cheeses
  • Salads
  • Snacks (chips, chocolate bars, and the like)
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Drinks (soft drinks, dairy products)

It should be said that not all processed foods are of lesser quality. There are some foods that must be processed to ensure they are edible and/or safe. Take milk, for example. Pasteurisation is utilised to remove harmful bacteria. Another example – oil.

4.Distribution and Retail

Typically, during the distribution stage, the longest journey entails. This is when the food is dispatched from the packaging plant to the destination for retail. For the most part, the place of retail will be in the form of a supermarket.

The majority of food products are transported by ship. Some products are, instead, transported by air – the most carbon-intensive method for food dispatch. 

From the producer to the consumer, the distance a particular food item must be transported is referred to as a ‘food mile’. The food mile statistic is used to measure environmental footprint in terms of the production process of the food in question, otherwise referred to as the ‘foodprint’.

Prior to food reaching its destination – the consumption stage, the vast majority of total food waste has already occurred. All other food waste occurs at the consumer level. 


Consumption is the final stage within the entire food supply chain. Hopefully, this is the stage that the food is consumed. There are, needless to say, numerous reasons as to why food is wasted at home, though fortunately, there are many things that can be done to avoid this from occurring. Among them:

  • Avoid buying too much food at one time
  • Always create a shopping list so you buy only what you need 
  • Ensure that food is stored correctly
  • Freeze extra food that will not be consumed in a timely manner

How KlearNow supports food imports & exports

KlearNow is a customer-centric platform that has been created to streamline the day-to-day operations for brokers, food importers and food carriers. Combining AI technology with a cloud-based platform, businesses that work with us can now enjoy increased business, lower costs, full transparency and more time thanks to this innovative system that can be used 24/7.

Learn more about how KlearNow can help you. Contact our team today to be a part of this new and improved digital journey.