Interview – Diverse horticulture produce creating supply chain challenges for India

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

By Ritwik Sinha

Production of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is creating supply chain challenges in India even as the government works towards doubling farm income by 2022, the chief executive officer of the National Center for Cold-Chain Development (NCCD) said.

One kind of supply chain will not effectively serve them all. Fruits and vegetables need to be classified based on how their shelf life varies under ambient or controlled climate conditions, Pawanexh Kohli, told Indoasiancommodities.com in an interview.

“India’s biggest, and perhaps, the most challenging task is to provide fair remuneration to the farmers for the produce. The irony of Indian farmers is strange indeed. We have been consistently witnessing over the years that more a farmers produces, worse are the remuneration he earns for the bumper production, Kohli said.

He said India was among the largest producers of horticulture and most perishable goods estimated at 350 million tonnes.

However, a poor supply chain meant that the produce couldn’t be sold and that has seen prices rising constantly.

“What we need to make sure is that supply connects with consumers. So delivery mechanism, cold chain, logistics, farm- to- fork should be the new focus of all stakeholders – farmers, middlemen, government, policy makers etc.,” Kohli said in the interview.

Products such as potato, apple and chillies can be stored for as many as six to eight months in cold stores, and can thereafter be simply transported in regular trucks under ambient conditions.

“This year we’ll touch 50 million tonnes in potato. And yet, almost 50% of production is lost in transit,” Kohli said, adding that onions and oranges were somewhat similar although the nature of the stores required are different, and their shelf life was also a few months shorter.

“But you can’t store tomatoes for a long period. It will age by the time it reaches the consumers. The solution is to create smaller and efficient cold units from the farmers’ fields to the retail consumers. Cold storage as distribution hubs rather than bulk storing linked with village level pack houses is the way to go forward.” Kohli argued.

The shelf life of tomato is just four days, when harvested at semi ripened stage and kept at ambient temperature in the supply chain;

If harvested in mature green stage, kept in cold store at 10 to 13 degree Celsius, and transported in cold chain, the same can be extended to as many as three weeks, Kohli pointed out.

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