On-site doctor visits are far from a regular occurrence at kiwifruit packhouses, but these days fresh produce companies are going further than ever before to ensure the health and safety of their staff, customers and consumers.

Greek exporter Proto was quick to convene its Crisis Management Team following the spread of the coronavirus outside of China, introducing new measures from 26 February.

In addition to staff check-ups, workers are being kept a safe distance apart during work and breaks, while deep-cleaning of all areas of the packhouse has been stepped up and use of hand sanitiser and gloves has become mandatory. Access to the packhouse is strictly prohibited to unauthorised persons, and anyone showing any symptoms is instructed to self-isolate for 14 days.

According to export manager George Kallitsis, the company will follow these measures for the foreseeable future, as the kiwifruit campaign continues in Europe.

“At the end of January, we stopped shipping to China, and more recently that’s been extended to other overseas destinations,” said Kallitsis. “But the European market for kiwifruit is very strong at the moment, especially in Spain, and so far we are managing the logistics. Our main concern is cherries and how to harvest them if lockdown is still in effect at the end of May, as most of our pickers come from Albania.”

One positive for Proto is the good demand for healthy products during the current pandemic. “Remember that at this point, only a healthy immune system can battle Covid-19,” the company recently advised on its website. “A healthy lifestyle including healthy meals can boost your immune system. Some examples include kiwifruit, which is the best natural source of vitamin C, and cherries, which are rich in potassium. Stay healthy!”