OPINION: The cold-chain warehouse industry desperately needs modernization – this could also impact food price inflation

Publication : Business Insider India

India’s food processing industry is one of the largest sectors in terms of production, growth, consumption, and export. The country is one of the largest producers of fruits, vegetables, meat, and seafood in the world.’

But irrespective of the production the nation has limited access to the produce as a substantial amount of wastage is experienced throughout the supply chain in the processing units and delivery due to the unavailability of standard cold chain infrastructure.

A considerable amount of produce gets spoiled every year due to various reasons which can be checked with the help of efficient cold chain facilities. Even against such loss, in the past few years, unanimous demand for fresh, locally-produced, or preserved food has risen phenomenally.

Further, the meat, seafood, and bio-pharmaceuticals segments are driving the steep demand for the cold chain. It comes with the capacity to sustain large-scale food production, and processing, and limit food wastage with the help of integrated refrigerated transport, pack houses, collection centers, and cold storage.

The need was even starkly felt during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure a smooth supply chain throughout the country and even overseas. With the Indian food industry pacing up, the cold chain is emerging as the most sought-after facility.

Even the government is coming up with comprehensive schemes to boost the cold storage infrastructure by reducing the wastage of production. The entire agriculture, food processing, and pharma industries can benefit from the infrastructure and embark on a journey of future growth.

Depending upon the nature of food, there are two types of cold stores, namely – active and passive cold stores. Daily routine products like frozen food, ice cream, etc. require active storage with dynamic storage applications. It is backed up with a wide range of temperature zones within the same warehouse for storing diverse products requiring different temperatures.

On the other hand, passive cold storage is meant for the long-term preservation of perishable goods like seeds, potatoes, onions, etc.

Irrespective of the type of storage, moisture acts as a potential deterrent wreaking havoc on the food industry by initiating a series of reactions resulting in spoilage even after installing the best cold storage. It is responsible for the frosting of products, slippery floors, ice-build up on conveyor belts, and cooling coils. Moreover, in the loading dock, the frost build-up causes fog inside.

It is also responsible for the softening and sagging of cardboard cartons which makes them very unstable and hazardous. Consequently, humidity ails the cold chain sector by putting incessant pressure on the defrosting costs, reduced storage space, probability of frequent shutdowns, flourishing of mold and mildew, and reduced cooling efficiency as a result of water vapor loads and clogging in evaporator coils.

Therefore, to curb the moisture menace in the cold storage industry it is important to deploy advanced dehumidification solutions for inhibiting the frost formation on the evaporators and ice build-up on the cooling coils. It contributes immensely in increasing the productivity of the cold chain.

Desiccant dehumidification is the most economical and energy-efficient solution that intervenes with the fogging and frosting prospects of cooling coils by providing cool dry air at a dew point lower than that of the cold room. It is well equipped to provide dry air continuously irrespective of the surrounding conditions.

Considering that up till now cold chains were sporadically developed on the basis of need with limited resources and infrastructure, it is the need of the hour that such technology is installed in the cold chain facilities.

By controlling the humidity levels, it not just solves the problem of frosting and icing but plays a pivotal role in achieving the global level safety and quality standards that will help India in becoming an international player as a quality food supplier.

The use of dehumidification can be the game changer for the development of cold chains as it can help cold store owners/ exporters garner better value for the produce, increase global trade, and ultimately contribute to the revenue model of the country.

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