Up to half of India’s milk and vegetables wasted from poor cold chain infrastructure

By Lester Wan

- Last updated on GMT

India is the second-largest producer of fruit and vegetables. ©iStock
India is the second-largest producer of fruit and vegetables. ©iStock
About 40% to 50% of India’s total annual production of milk, fruit and vegetables, worth $440bn, ends up wasted.

A joint-study between ASSOCHAM, the Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India, and MRSS, an independent market research agency, highlighted the scale of the problem.

“The situation is severe in the southern part of India due to unavailability of cold storage units, moreover as the climate is far more hot and humid (there),”​ the study stated.

India is the world’s largest producer of milk and the second-largest producer of fruit and vegetables.

“India has about 6,300 cold storage facilities with a capacity of 30.11 million metric tonnes, which are only able to store about 11% of the country’s total perishable produce,”​ explained D. S. Rawat, secretary general of ASSOCHAM.

The study estimated that the cold chain market in India valued at $167.24bn in 2016 is projected to grow to $234.49bn by 2020. Nonetheless, high operating costs is a great limitation.

“Shortage of adequate infrastructure, lack of trained personnel, outdated technology and inconsistent power supply are other major obstacles in growth of cold chain infrastructure in India,”​ said Rawat.

He added that setting up a cold chain involves a higher infrastructure cost for operations.

“Given the expected growth in grocery retail to hit $847.9bn by 2020 from $500 bn in 2012, there are some changes expected by the industry as a whole to ensure that the three significant areas of handling food collection, storage and transportation will be more cost effective for retailers,” ​he said.

How to address the challenge

Technology such as GPS and sensors could be used to centrally monitor and track the temperature and the position of the truck to ensure better control over the condition of the produce.

Furthermore, by implementing self-updating and hosted computer systems, cloud storage would offer many benefits to warehousing such as cutting down on the maintenance, infrastructure and labour costs that come with the installation and upgrading of warehouse management systems.

The study also suggested that instead of the process being man-to-goods, India’s industry should evolve to become goods-to-man and robotics and automation could help to revolutionise the logistics and supply chain.

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