We don’t just need a Cold Chain but do need an India specific cold chain.

On way to attend a panel discussion at India Cold Storage Conference 2012 on 27th April last month I got floored by the title of the event “Emerging importance of Cold Chain business in India”.

I recalled that way back in 1991 also, as a young officer at Mother Dairy NDDB, I had attended a FICCI conference with a similar title. Why the time has stood still for cold chain business in India?

While being driven down the lovely but isolated expressway in Greater Noida, I thought – had things gone in a natural progression, appropriate event title in 2012 could have been “Emerging importance of RFIDs in Cold Chain business in India”. But that was a wishful thinking. Something is surely putting road blocks. But what?

The answer came flashing. Is anyone trying to build an India specific cold chain or just replicating the European model?

No doubt having a cold chain, as it is perceived normally across the World (precooling, temperature controlled pack houses, reefers, cold stores, CA stores, till house wife’s refrigerator et al) reduce wastage, ensures quality and extends shelf life. But the cost benefit is not same in India as it is elsewhere, particularly Europe and USA, where the produce prices are high and technology relatively cheap. In India it is vice versa. Moreover, though untrue, cold stored produce is not perceived fresh in India.

It is not only price of produce and tech cost but other factors also point out towards this India specific need, for example: In India it is a small holder agriculture which means:

  • Small lot size per farmer
  • Low economic loads and because of that both product as well as packaging is not standardize. It is difficult to standardize products as pooling of produce don’t fit well with standardization. Everyone plays his own fiddle.
  • India’s market mechanisms, the mandi commission agent (arhtiya) system that though fits into small lots and varied packaging but simply does not offer any incentive for improved product quality.

Moreover, India comprises of vast geographic and climatic zones which facilitate production of fruit and vegetables (short product life cycles for majority of products), in one area or another practically round the year for many items. Even within a particular Indian State you have production belts that supplies items. Why store a product to extend.

If someone is interested I can offer hundreds of relevant examples to further demystify what I have said in previous paragraphs.

So there is a need to have India specific cold chain for perishable products.

Just food for thought for planners. In subsequent post I’ll attempt to further elaborate on the subject and offer some solutions. Keep visiting.

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