Re-inventing ‘Farm to Fork’ Supply Chain: Need of the hour

Media Release – 14 May 2013

India is stepping towards a second-green revolution through market-led extension. This one has the potential to dwarf the first one, while being more global in its consequences. Food Safety is now a global issue; and India with less than 1 percent of the global surface area, produces 13 percent of the world’s fruits and vegetables!

Major constraints in the supply chain of fruits and vegetables

The Indian horticulture supply chains are patchy as a majority of farmers are small and marginal with very limited landholdings resulting in a small amount of produce that poses transportation problems resulting in a greater reliance on intermediaries (commission agents).

In the process of bringing the produce to the central markets, a large share of a farmer’s realizable value is lost as commission, supply chain mishandling and losses, owing to improper infrastructural facilities that results in greater wastage. The intermediaries hardly care about the losses the farmers have to incur and do not spend on quality cold storage and other post harvest facilities. This results in immense loss in the quantity and quality of the produce, increasing the value loss in Indian Supply Chain for Fruits & Vegetables. In most cases, these supply chains lack storage facilities, post harvest machinery, marketing infrastructure such as grading, standardization, and other machinery. In hilly areas, this problem is aggravated due to constraints of infrastructure, labour and other facilities.

Role of cold chain in reducing the post harvest losses

Considering the global food security problems, reduction of post-harvest losses across the chain, especially in developing countries like India, is a crucial task which can be achieved by understanding the above constraints and addressing squarely the problems for promotion of cold chain industry. Post-harvest technology includes automated approaches for sorting, packing, and forwarding perishable crops into intermediate storage facilities before transporting in temperature-controlled containers to their destinations, including processing factories. Logistics and traceability obviously play a vital role in the supply chain.

Potential of cold chain industry for fruits & vegetables in India

Vegetables ate mostly grown all over India and are consumed regionally, whereas the fruits grown in specific regions e.g. apples grown in the Himalayas, grapes in Maharashtra etc. have to be distributed across regions. Lack of proper post-harvest management leads to a large percentage of value loss of the fruits estimated up to 40 percent. As the horticultural produce has to be transported over significant distances and climactic regions, encountering different environments affects the quality of the produce and cold chain becomes essential in order to develop an effective and balanced supply chain.

The potential of the cold chain is immense as most of the farmers lack storage facilities and access to other post harvest facilities. Owing to a change in lifestyle, the demand for fresh and safe fruits and vegetables is growing exponentially and hence the cold chain industry has a critical role to play.

Cold Chain models operating in India

Two business models exist currently in India, both carrying pros and cons. The 3PL (Third Party Logistics) Service Providers Model, which means that the cold storage and other post-harvest management services are provided by a third party service provider for a charge. The Integrated Cold Chain Model is a farm-to-retail model involved right from production to the retail end of the supply chain, i.e. purchasing produce at farm-gate and distributing produce after value addition to the retailers.

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