Technology And Trade

Few areas of commerce are assisted more readily by advances in technology that is international trade. The technology behind Genetically Modified Organisms, though controversial, is at the start of developing a wide array of products appropriate for export. Perhaps certain products will be bred because they store well or bred because they meet a high-demand taste profile; perhaps products will be bred a certain way because they can be shipped efficiently.

Storage technology can, in and of itself, create an industry. If you look at America’s apple export industry, a substantial portion of that was built on the fact that America had controlled atmosphere storage rooms and thus could ship fresh apples after many other countries were out.

Packaging is another area where technology is crucial. It may be consumer packaging where the product is kept fresh and tasty despite long journeys, or it may be a type of carton built with strength so it won’t crush despite high stacking to minimize freight on expensive journeys.

Freight transportation is, obviously, the key to many exports. The containerization of freight made it more cost-effective and, in many cases, increased quality. The availability of airfreight makes possible the export of some items that couldn’t be exported at all without the speed of a plane.

But technology is complicated and often depends on many interrelated parts. Airplanes are obviously faster than boats, so you would think that airplanes would be a natural for perishables. Yet if you don’t have direct flights and the product consequently sits on a tarmac either freezing or in the hot sun, the quick trip can be more damaging than a longer trip in a refrigerated ocean-going container in which the cold chain is never broken.

So the effective use of the technology — in this case an airplane — depends on an effective integration with innovations such as sophisticated computer scheduling and onsite refrigerated storage at shipping and trans-shipment points to hold things for customs.

Worldwide flows of capital often assist the export revolution. And sophisticated financial institutions provide the security that allows international commerce to flow with ease.

The technology that allows for inexpensive air travel by consumers creates the opportunity for consumers to try new cuisines and be exposed to new brands and ways of eating.

Broadcasting, mass distribution of movies and mass exposure to music helps people in every corner of the world be exposed to other cultures. With the robust film and music industry in the United States, this worldwide exposure to American popular culture has been a big influencer in developing consumer interest in American products.

Yet the most important influence on international trade is the improvement in methods of communication and the distribution of information.

Digital cameras allow us to send photos of products almost instantaneously, and if the products arrive in poor condition, photos of claims can be shot back just as fast.

Computers talking to each other can arrange for the continuous replenishment of product, so there is no need for people to get involved, there is much less chance for error, and out-of-stocks are reduced substantially.

Today, information moves at the speed of light. It is digital, and it is versatile. It links us to one another in ways we couldn’t imagine only a short time ago.

AMERICAN FOOD AND AG EXPORTER is part of this information revolution with two new exciting digital products.

First, the digital version of this magazine is now available. No more waiting for the mails to deliver your issue — it can be e-mailed to you and you can have it the minute it is off the press.

And it’s not even just the same magazine. Already almost every ad has a link to the advertiser’s website, and in months to come we’ll be adding hyperlinks to the editorial as well as having both advertisers and your editors include high-speed video in their presentations. It’s a hyper-leap product with amazing impact.

To add immediacy to impact, we’ve started Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, a daily e-mail newsletter to keep you up to date on the state of the perishables industry. You can check it out at

We would love to send you both the digital version of AMERICAN FOOD AND AG EXPORTER and the daily e-mail of Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit. Both products are absolutely free, but we need you to give us your e-mail address. Just go to and click on the Subscribe button, then indicate what products you want, and you will have the best information technology in the business on your side.