Inadequate Cold Storage/Transport
Despite India being world’s largest producer for milk and second largest producer of fruits and vegetables, about 40 to 50 per cent of the total production valued of $440 billion (bn) ends up wasting, noted an ASSOCHAM-MRSS India study released in October 2017.
Highlighting that about 60% of this capacity is spread across states of UP, West Bengal, Gujarat and Punjab, the ASSOCHAM-MRSS India joint study noted, “The situation is severe in southern part of India due to unavailability of cold storage units, moreover as the climate is far more hot and humid.”
While there are many positive changes in Indian cold chain market, however high operating costs is a major roadblock for sector’s overall growth. Shortage of adequate infrastructure, lack of trained personnel, outdated technology and inconsistent power supply are other major obstacles in growth of cold chain infrastructure in India, according to the study.
Assessing India’s Cold-Chain Capacity
In order to evaluate the Status and Gaps of the nation’s Cold-Chain Infrastructure, the National Centre for Cold-chain Development (NCCD) under the Union Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare released a Report titled “All India Cold-Chain Capacity Assessment (Status & Gaps)” in 2015. The Report noted that India over the years witnessed a marked increase in production of perishable high nutrition products like fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry products etc. but development of cold-chain infrastructure was not strategically directed, for safe handling and to convey these perishable products to markets, except in the dairy sector. A resultant demand supply mismatch emerged across these agricultural commodities, frequently contributing to wide spread price fluctuations and inflation.
According to the NCCD Report, cold-chain is not just about the “cold” but it refers to all logistical procedures applied, to maintain multiple parameters of finished produce during the pre-conditioning, handling, transport, storage and retail of products. The cold-chain includes varied aspects of packaging, atmospheric gases, biology, injury, humidity, trace ability, infrastructure, people & product flow, besides temperature. In fact, temperature control can only work with all others in synch.
The Report observed that the existing food distribution suffers food losses due to lack of integrated cold-chains.Establishing modern supply chains for perishable food items, not only minimizes the food losses, but also empowers the farmers to reach across to more distant markets. Integrated cold-chain enables the farmer groups proactively connect to various demand centres and take advantage of the National Agriculture Market (NAM). This empowering aspect of cold-chain, allows for a greater geographical spread of markets by countering produce perishability, and is key to gainful and improved value realization for farmers, stated the Report.
“To use cold storage as stepping stones to markets, requires a matching development of back-end infrastructure in form of modern pack-houses with refrigerated transport attached. In case of frozen foods, to suit demand based flow, a greater capacity in form of modern retail shelves at merchandising end is indicated,” the Report stated.
The Report observed that holistic development is key to integrating the supply chain, to improve the existing domestic supply of food items, to include the complete basket of perishable foods in cold-chain, to mitigate food losses, to improve direct market connectivity for producers and for greater inclusive wealth creation in the country.
Augmenting Storage Capacity
The total storage capacity available for storage of foodgrains as on December 31, 2021 was 961.73 LMT, comprising covered godowns of 792.81 LMT and Covered and Plinth (CAP) facilities of 168.92 LMT.
Government is implementing a Central Sector Scheme for construction of godowns with focus on augmenting storage capacity in the States of North Eastern (NE) Region and a few other States. Under this Scheme “Storage and Godowns”, funds are released directly to Food Corporation of India (FCI) in the form of equity for land acquisition and construction of storage godowns and infrastructure like railway sidings, electrification, installation of weighbridge, etc. Funds are also released as grants-in-aid to the Governments of the North-Eastern States including Jammu & Kashmir for construction of intermediate storage godowns considering the storage gaps as well as difficult geographical and climatic conditions in these States. During 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17), a total capacity of 1,84,175 MT had been created in NE States and other than NE States.
Government of India has also approved an action plan/road map for construction of steel silos in the country in Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode for modernizing storage infrastructure and improving shelf life of stored foodgrains. Under the plan for silo development, upto December 31, 2021, 29.25 LMT capacity in various locations throughout the country have been awarded. Out of which, a capacity of 11.125 LMT is completed and remaining are under various stages of development.
- Economic Survey 2021-22
- All India Cold-Chain Capacity Assessment (Status & Gaps), NCCD-NABARD Consultancy Services, 2015
- Up to half of milk, fruits & veggies produced in India goes waste due to poor cold chain infra: Study, ASSOCHAM, October 24, 2017