Play it cool: Indian industry lauds new cold chain projects to reduce food waste and boost exports
The 27 projects were announced by the Indian Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MOFPI) earlier this year under what has been called the Pradhan Mantri Kisan SAMPADA Yojana (PMKSY) scheme, alongside an INR2.08bn (US$28mn) grant-in-aid from the central government.
These integrated cold chain projects will be implemented in 11 states across the country: Seven in Andhra Pradesh, four each in Tamil Nadu and Haryana, three in Karnataka, two each in Gujarat and Rajasthan, and one each in Bihar, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh.
They are run by either central or state-owned enterprises (Public Sector Undertakings, PSUs) government partnership firms, Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs), or other bodies subject to government approval.
“These projects will not only provide a big boost to the growth of food processing infrastructure but would also help in streamlining the agricultural supply chain, generate direct and indirect employment opportunities in rural areas, provide better prices to farmers, end-users, and benefit allied sectors,” Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said when announcing these projects.
Local FMCG trade and retail industry body Federation of All India Vyapar Mandal (FAIVM) has voiced hearty support for this initiative, pointing out the particular benefits for reducing food loss and waste throughout the supply chain.
“FAIVM welcomes the government’s move, and we believe that this move will save agrifood products from being wasted due to the non-availability of climate sensitive warehouses,” FAIVM National General Secretary V K Bansal told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“[One of the major] boundaries the agrifood sector faces in India has always been cold chain - Up till now the traders’ community has been held responsible for not upkeeping agrifood products well in their warehouses [due to due to a lack of the proper facilities].
“With new infrastructure like the cold chain facilities planned under these projects, we believe traders will be able to store these for a longer period of time, prevent excessive food wastage [and loss throughout the supply chain].”
Bansal also believes that these projects will serve as a significant boost for India’s agrifood sector and also support India’s move towards more value-added food processing.
“Government data has revealed that that over 257,900 farmers will benefit and over 16,200 jobs will be created within the sector as a result of these projects,” he said.
“[In addition, these will also serve as a] major thrust for the agrifood sector as a whole, by growing and developing the food processing sector to convert more agricultural produce into value-added products.
“Another important benefit we hope for is that improving the cold chain infrastructure locally [will enable more food and agricultural products] to be exported, [further improving local GDP].”
MOFPI stated that the projects would cover cold chain and preservation infrastructure facilities ‘without any break, from the farm gate to the consumer’, including at the farm level (pre-cooling, weighing, sorting), distribution level (multi product/multi temperature cold storage, controlled-atmosphere storage, blast freezing) and food product distribution (reefer vans, mobile cooling units) covering dairy, meat, fruits, vegetables and more.
MOFPI is also hopeful that the establishment of these integrated cold-chain projects will serve to enhance India’s food self-sufficiency.
"Saving the perishable produce by provisioning adequate infrastructure shall not only help in augmenting farmer's incomes but it shall also act as a small step towards making India self-reliant in the fruits and vegetables sector," said Badal.
Bansal added that the reason the agrifood sector has been selected for such investment is due to its positive performance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The on-going pandemic has proved that during crisis, only an agrifood economy is going to sustain,” he said.
“Even with negative growth in [the local] GDP, [the agrifood] sector has shown positivity, and this is why the government has chosen to [reduce the barriers for the sector] to continue to grow and flourish.”