Perishable goods: How to retain freshness?
Perishable commodities move through different stages before reaching their final destination—the end user. In this journey, it is important to sustain their freshness. CARGOTALK discussed with stakeholders the infrastructural framework required to boost t
Chief Advisor & CEO, NCCD
The phrase ‘extended life to a product is provided by cold storages’ refers to a fallacy that stems from lack of understanding of cold chain. In the cold chain, the cold stores provide a safe platform to safeguard the ‘life extension’ that is provided by the initial activities undertaken at source point. In case of fresh fruits and vegetables this is provided at modern pack-houses and in case of processed foods this is undertaken in the food processing units. The cold stores, along with reefer transport are used to assist in maintaining or safeguarding the produce or product – not for providing any added life extension. For example, in case of fresh milk, the life extension is provided at the village level milk chiller unit, the rest of the infrastructure is only to take care of this valuable cargo until delivery. Food loss and wastage cannot be mitigated with the maintaining of inventory in cold stores, but requires assuring the final delivery and gainful end-use of the food in hand of end-consumers.
The infrastructure framework required is well documented in the All India Cold Chain Infrastructure Capacity report of 2015. The consumer’s main concern is best served by lowering the demand supply mismatches and ensuring a steady state of availability of the complete basket of food items. Cold chain empowers the producers to supply to a larger market spread, offsets episodic variations in supply. The increase in market footprint in turn justifies an increase in farm level productivity and benefits both consumers and producers alike. The cold chain is not a narrow prism of cold stores, but a complete delivery mechanism that seamlessly connects supply with demand, bringing to reality the farms-to-table concept. India has already been successful in doing so in case of the other difficult perishable products–milk and ice cream. This requires to be emulated across the entire basket of food products.
Managing Director, DGM India
A lot of investment has gone in to the development of cold storage facilities in this country with government providing support in this sector. However, there is no holistic planning for development of the infrastructure needed for management of the horticulture produce in appropriate manner.
We need to create an AMUL enterprise in the cooperative sector which can take up the development, management and operation of the needed infrastructure comprising pre-cool facility, collection centre, pack houses, cold storages and CA chambers in different regions/states.
We need to create economically sized facilities and not small multiple facilities which are useless. I understand some initiative in this respect is happening in Nashik in Maharashtra. Thirdly we cannot just think only in terms of export but we have to also think in terms of import and domestic movement.
Fourthly, we need to map out the whole countries in different regions/clusters and monitor the progress. Lastly, all the funding happening in the sector, whether it is from Apeda or Horticulture board, should be channelised only through one agency and I would state that it should be NCCD which should be disbursing these funds. That way these will be accountable and real infrastructure facilities will be created.
Managing Director, Testo India
Be it food products such as dairy, fruits, vegetables, frozen food or pharmaceutical goods such as vaccines, the cold chain between the manufacturer and the final consumer may under no circumstances be interrupted. It may lead to quality deficits, financial losses or even serious damage to the health of the consumer or patient.
In addition, it also leads to food and other medicinal losses globally. One major challenge faced by the logistics industry is data logging during the cold chain since temperature monitoring and quality data documentation in the transport of sensitive goods is extremely critical. Very often the costs of sending back the logger to the origin are very high and hindered by custom regulations.
The current trend that has being seen in the cold chain logistics is switching to the use of single-use data loggers or the use and throw loggers. Testo has introduced single-use data logger testo 184 T1 (90 days) and testo (150 days) to the cold chain for transportation of the frozen food and pharma products from their production plant to various destinations across the globe.
Managing Director, Rahat Cargo
In order to ensure the safe storage pending uplift, the exporter must have a proper cold storage facility in his warehouse along with temperature-controlled vehicles for the goods’ road transportation to the airport. The airports too need to be provided with the state-of-the-art cooling centre with various temperature control system to cater to the perishables’ needs.
Subsequently, the carriers are expected to exit the goods from cold storage considering the minimum waiting time for the perishables before these are loaded in the aircraft. Every effort by the airlines is made not to expose the perishables to the atmospheric temperature, if these are not favourable.
It is also feasible for the cargo warehouse custodian or the carriers to transport the goods to the bay under the cover of a Thermal Blanket to ensure that a minimal adverse temperature effect is resulted. Thereafter, the airlines must also ensure that the aircraft belly where such perishables are to be loaded must be fed with the required temp by the cockpit crew so that no deterioration is caused due to lack of desired temp during the air carriage. On arrival of the perishables at the destination, similar exercises need to be undertaken which were observed for export, that is, prompt storage of goods in the cooling centre and delivery with a minimum dwell time.
Amit Chugh AVP Supply Chain, Crystal Crop Protection & Chairman – Corporate Affairs Committee AIMTC (All India Motor Transport Congress)
India, the world’s largest producer of milk and the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables, is also one of the biggest food wasters in the world, wasting ` 440 billion worth of fruits, vegetables and grains every year. Considering the current levels of food wasted, cold chain facilities will play an important role in feeding the country.
Understanding the increasing demand for an effective cold chain, the government has established a separate department, National Centre for Cold Chain Development (NCCD). To develop a world-class cold chain infrastructure, the government and industry bodies need to join hands to adopt better and more efficient technologies to prolong the shelf life of food products and to bring economic returns to the farmers. This will not only ensure year-round availability of perishable food products and reasonable prices to the consumers but also equitable distribution to other parts of the country.
ED& CEO, BVC Logistics
In the perishable produce space, the initial rush, in India, has been towards building cold storage facilities, randomly, without much thought of linking in the supply source to the market proximity. Herein lies the crux of the problem – unfriendly conditions between produce plucking/ harvesting to reaching market place which means lack of temperature controlled transportation and handling conditions. This has now become imperative to ensure extension of the life of perishable produce.
The administrators of the country need to pay heed to the humongous cost savings and poverty alleviation opportunities that are abounding in the right management of food in its storage and transportation.
CEO, Celebi Delhi Cargo Terminal
Infrastructure and regulations both should ensure that the cold shipments are managed using seamless and uncompromised integrated cold chain, so that shipments constantly travel through an unbroken cold chain. Lack of the above is expected to lead to mishandling of the temperature sensitive products further causing loss of business. Infrastructure needs to be upgraded with more dedicated facilities to handle diverse portfolio of temperature sensitive products.
There is a need to develop more dedicated perishable and pharmaceutical handling facilities both in static as well as mobile form. Our regulations to control transportation and storage of cold chain (with specific focus on pharma) need to seriously change, on the line of EU’s GDP. It does need several companies to specialise in this business which are willing to make serious investments in trucking, warehouses, IT systems, temperature tracking technology and specialised handling/ security screening equipment.
Technology has the potential to increase profitability and efficiency by strengthening supply chain involved in perishable handling. Enhanced usage of electronic devices such as radio-frequency identification (RFID), global positioning systems (GPS) and data loggers can drastically improve efficiency, quality control and reduce wastage. The ideal mix of infrastructure, technology and regulations can create a robust supply chain network and efficient processes conducive to perishable handling. The entire trade fraternity should be open to make more investments to strengthen the cold chain infrastructure which will be beneficial for the stakeholders as well the economy of the country.
Head – Logistics, OM Logistics
The primary challenge facing the cold chain industry is rising property prices with an increase of more than 280 per cent over the last decade. To build a cold storage facility with one million cubic feet of space requires an acre of land. Electric power is an equally expensive challenge.
This forces the majority of cold storage operators to run on backup power which leads to a marked increase in operating costs. Adding to increased costs, the lack of two-way cargo movement and back haulage of reefer trucks are also unique to India. Other cost contributors include interstate barriers, intercity and state taxes and bad roads. The adoption of proven technology solutions can help bring down operating costs, improve quality of produce and help the environment. Multiple, innovative solutions are emerging in India to help meet these goals. Different products require different temperatures and humidity level maintenance. To maintain quality, improve shelf life and extend the sale period of fruits and vegetables, it is critical to control environmental conditions during storage and transportation. The use of electronic management systems and controllers assist by controlling the storage environment automatically, with the preset values which help in precise control, food safety and compliance. Electronic sensors help maintain precise conditions.
Country Head & Director, Carrier Transicold, India
There is a need for the development of appropriate links that can integrate farm to fork logistics. The infrastructure required for harvested fresh horticultural produce (fruits and vegetables) is different from that required for processed food (value-added products). For fresh produce to reach the market in time, shelf life while still in hand is critical. Usage of the cold chain slows the ripening process and can increase shelf life by a few days or even weeks in some cases. To optimise the effects of the cold chain, fresh produce needs to go through pre-conditioning or pre-cooling immediately after harvesting. This primary activity safeguards the quality and value of the produce. Proper packaging after sorting and grading is another important activity which helps to ensure appropriate temperature management and safeguards the product from handling damage during its journey through the cold chain. Every product needs a specific temperature and humidity to maintain its quality and avoid nutrition loss. The produce then needs to be stored or transported with appropriate temperatures through reefer vans/trucks to reach farther distances and cover untapped markets.
Carrier Transicold India’s new Citifresh range of fresh-only truck refrigeration units is designed to meet India’s growing demand for transportation of fruits, vegetables, dairy and confectionary products using refrigerated trucks. It is easy to install and maintain as well as ideally suited for demanding applications including high ambient conditions up to 50 degrees Celsius. The range delivers exceptional value by virtue of its low initial cost and lower maintenance and operational costs while a dashboard-mounted DIN controller offers ease of use.