"Cold chain is a temperature controlled supply chain. It is an unbroken, uninterrupted series of storage and distribution activities which maintain a given temperature range."
Cold chain infrastructure is of importance to countries where storage and processing are unable to match up to the production levels. This is because if adequate and sufficient conditions are not provided to the produce then the crop would be rendered useless in a very short span of time. Also, the spoilage rate is enhanced and the shelf life drastically reduced thereby labeling it unfit for consumption. Apart from these, a specified and organized cold chain infrastructure has the following advantages:
- Decreased rate of spoilage
-Increased shelf life
- Availability of food produce throughout the year
- Increase in global trade as food produced at one place can travel without any spoilage inhibition
- Increased processing capabilities
- Storage of processed food
- Balanced process throughout the year
Apart from these they have indirect economic benefits to both the producers and processors. Also, the consumers enjoy better palatability and variety.
India is a leading producer in the world for various agricultural products. However, its contribution in the world trade still remains paltry.
India has a remarkable production of crops and other food commodities. However, its participation is questionable and not proportionate. This can be attributed to the huge post harvest losses that the country has been suffering due to poor storage capacities. Food has a reduced shelf life as the apt storage conditions are not maintained and hence it continues to bring woes to the Indian Economy.
According to a study, India's post harvest losses for Fruits and Vegetables stood at a stalling -15.9.
- 11% of the world's horticulture, i.e., 280.4 million MT per annum is produced in India. However, its share in the global trade is -1.7%.
- India produced ~ 146.3 million tones of milk in the year 2015-16 but cold storage capacities are available for only 31.8 million tones.
- Over 28% fish produced annually is wasted in India due to spoilage.
- Also, the abattoirs lack proper chilling centres making the Indian population vulnerable to various life threatening diseases.
-Apart from these the Retail and Food service industry in India will require over and additional of INR 33 million tons to be added in the next 4 years.
Most of these are due to the failed maintenance of a unified temperature-controlled infrastructure. In the absence of these the root causes of spoilage of food are:
- Physiochemical changes encountered by the food product
Cold chain not only boosts the storage of food grains but also enhances the shelf life of various sea produce, horticulture products, dairy products and processed food. However, if the shelf life of the produce is increased then eventually it paves way for the development of the Food Industry as the stored food can be made available throughout the year thereby promoting processing.
These can be minimized or removed by the implementation of cold stores. This is where a proper and planned cold chain infrastructure comes into play. India's cold chain industry can be broadly categorized into
The sector is largely unorganized with paltry organized players. Despite of the impressive growth scales in the sector and the special emphasis given to it owing to the great losses suffered it has failed to attract many big players.
The Indian Cold Chain Industry has a CAGR of % and expected to reach a market size of over INR 557 Billion in the next few years. The government has recently expressed deep concern due to the rising concerns over post harvest losses and the sector falling behind the expected growth rates due to improper storage.
The target estimates have been made, keeping in mind, increased investments, modernization of increased facilities and establishment of new partnerships and ventures. According to industry estimates, the transport of perishable products is more 120 million metric tons each year. However, the cold chain system is barely used. Milk and milk products still remain the highest consumers of the cold chain infrastructure in India.
The commencement of cold chain in India could be traced back to 1892 in Kolkata. However, proper development of the industry sped up only post Independence with the "Cold store Order" in 1964. However, it has been only after regulation in 1997 that there has been an exponential growth noticed in the sector.