An Insurer's Perspective on Postharvest
Perspective: Get Control of the Losses
The most common types of claims include the following:
- Ammonia contamination
- Storage injury - freezing, carbon dioxide (CO2) exposure
- Chemical injury - sodium burn
- Refrigeration breakdown.
Apples in controlled atmosphere (CA) storage suffered ammonia contamination due to a pinhole leak in a weld in the exchange line. The ammonia sensor had been calibrated within 30 days with cal-gas but failed to operate. It was a total loss. The ammonia levels in the CA room measured over 115 ppm when discovered; the computer showed levels of 10 ppm.
Apples were sent to packing from CA, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rejected them for not being up to standard because of brown cores. Selective catalytic reduction (SCR) indicates CO2 exceeded acceptable levels. Rooms were set at historical set points and have not come up to market standards. This seems to have affected last year's crop, which was grown during different weather conditions. We had experienced around 18 of these types of claims the past couple of years. They usually result from wrong set points, stacking too tight, and poor management.
Apples also are burned from sodium or chlorine in the water. Approximately seven claims were linked to failure to purge vats as recommended. There are recommendations for this type of procedure but no set standards, and very few vats have conductivity meters. Levels also vary from the different water sources used.
Overmature fruit claims were linked to the inability to properly place fruit in cold storage. It takes too long to get the fruit in and the room temperature down. Also, others experienced losses when they placed different varieties of apples in the same room, each having their own refrigerator standards.
Reasons for Claims
- Operator error - lack of training for refrigeration personnel and poor management
- Mechanical malfunction - detectors malfunction, were inoperable, or never tested
- Age of equipment, lack of modernization
- Conditions of fruit - market conditions
- Lack of knowledge to store new varieties
- Improper storage techniques
Prevention of Claims
- Education and training of personnel to monitor and test equipment on a timely basis
- Monitoring fruit - both by computer and daily visual checks.
- Outside experts to check equipment annually.
- Mitigate claims - contact your broker to notify insurer
If It Happens To You - Here's What To Do
Ammonia losses - immediately vent room; don't fix it alone. Remove fruit and wash it as soon as it is safe (30 ppm or lower).
Refrigerator loss - back up compressors; directly contact refrigeration contractor.
Chemical injury - contact the chemical company to test water and water testers. Work with your company's trained staff on various levels of additives and of temperatures.
Storage contracts - prepare ahead if you lease storage. Everyone that leases storage needs to have a contract specifying who insures the fruit. You need to monitor what is happening at the outside storage. Storage contracts will save a lot of problems if everyone agrees before on who is responsible for what.
Future of Industry - Yours and Ours to Continue Insuring
- Higher deductibles - place more responsibility on management to spend money on updating equipment.
- Forms may be restructured for coverage with only mechanical breakdown, thus eliminating human error.
- Forms may be structured to include human error, but with the need to have a fortuitous event (i.e., set the temperature gauge wrong; not that the setting was right, but the fruit was bad).
- Continued monitoring and revising of detection systems with modern equipment.
Seabury and Smith
706 N. Chelan Ave.
Wenatchee, WA 98801
16th Annual Postharvest Conference, Yakima, WA
March 14-15, 2000