World Cold Chain Summit looks at food loss causes (Part 4)

Carrier’s fourth annual World Cold Chain Summit to Reduce Food Loss took to Vietnam in March and during session 3 and 4, it looked at food loss issues and causes, while also exploring cold chain projects in the Philippines. 

C015Riccardo Savigliano, industrial development officer, UNIDO, talked about the role that women play in the cold chain, in recognition of International Women’s Day.

Session 3: Food loss issues and root causes

Session three consisted of a series of 80-minute workshops related to root causes of food losses from cold chain gaps in Vietnam within four major sectors – fruits and vegetables, seafood/fish, storage and transport, and retail and distribution.

Several root causes were identified in the ‘Retail/Distribution’ workshop that also applied to the others, including lack of visibility over tracking and monitoring, lack of infrastructure and integrated cold chain providers, inadequate quality control related to receiving and packaging, lack of storage and cooling equipment along the food supply chain, and equipment maintenance challenges. Others included a lack of awareness of the link between food safety and cold chain, inadequate workforce training, a focus on cost over cold, and a general lack of consistency throughout the Vietnamese food supply chain related to perishables.

The ‘Storage/Transport’ workshop also identified several root causes of food loss, including knowledge and process issues such as limited cold chain knowledge, inability to share best practices, and lack of commitment from customers, suppliers, and logistics providers to ensure product temperature; supplier issues including improper quality assurance of product before shipping, poor packaging quality, and highly-fragmented producers limiting effective traceability; customer issues such as lack of interest in the cold chain, poor quality control, and a focus on cost savings as a barrier to implementing cold chain practices; environmental issues including higher ambient temperatures and exposure to extreme temperatures; and, regulatory issues such as lack of supporting policies to promote the cold chain and to address food loss in seasonal peaks.

Throughout all of these sessions, a recurring theme was a focus on short-term cost reduction versus investment for greater longer-term income through reduced food loss and improved product quality – a challenge that is not unique to Vietnam.

Capping the discussion in this session, Mark Mitchell of Supercool Asia Pacific emphasised the distinction between a series of refrigerated events and a proper cold chain – noting that the latter conveys that a consistent level of cold was achieved throughout the entire food supply chain journey.

John Mandyck summarised the day noting that it was data-rich, with 147 individuals from 17 countries focused on the higher purpose of minimising food loss and waste to sustainably feed the world.

C009Catching up in between sessions, Mark Mitchell of Supercool Asia Pacific (left) and Gerald Cavalier, president, Tecnea.

Day 2: Exploration of cold chain projects in the Philippines

Day 2 began with a look at a cold chain project in the Caraga region of the Philippines, presented by Nic Richards, chief of party, Philippines Cold Chain Project (PCCP), Winrock International. Richards described the PCCP, a five-year effort (2013-2018) funded by the US Department of Agriculture and implemented by Winrock in conjunction with several partner agencies in the Philippines.

The project has a number of goals, including expanding the supply and quality of horticulture, fisheries, and swine-sector food products, improving practices and facilities for perishable and non-perishable food production, better access to and application of improved post-harvest practices and technologies, improved marketing linkages and outcomes, and better access to financial and agribusiness services and products. The location of the PCCP supports cold and dry storage and nine slaughterhouses in the region.

Specific cold chain development challenges for the Caraga region are many and include a lack of coordinated and planned agricultural value chains, poor infrastructure (limited, sporadic power), security issues (unrest over land disputes), a poor “image” of Caraga, high poverty, limited private sector investment (and limited attraction), a predominance of small-scale agriculture, logistical challenges (inter-island transport), and limited access to microfinance.

Richards discussed two case studies with PCCP-supported facilities, the Caraga Regional Integrated Marketing Centre (CRIMC) – a multi-purpose building for dry and cold storage processing and handling (without cold storage) – and the Santa Josefa Slaughterhouse for pig processing. As Richards noted, the CRIMC faces several challenges. The facility is not yet ready for business operations, it lacks a business plan, a local government operations team has not yet been established, local government politics can be inconsistent, aggregators and shippers (especially for bananas) have extensive power and are not quality-focused, no funds exist for cold room storage, and agribusiness partners are difficult to establish.

Richards believes that progress is being made, however, as work is being done with a local government unit to make the facility accessible and ready for business while also developing a feasibility study for business development.

Absent new technology interventions, old practices remain in use – as is the case with bananas. Richards provided several impactful photographs of bananas jammed into wooden crates, exposed to the elements, and interspersed with 40kg blocks of ice. The crammed crates and the heavy blocks of ice lead to losses due to crushing, and the open access allows access to rainwater. Further, Richards conveyed a fascinating detail: the heavy blocks of ice melt during transportation and the exposure to water naturally results in losses. The traders like this, however, and have no incentive to change the process fraught with food loss since they are paid by the pound and the melting ice results in a higher price at market for them.

The Santa Josefa slaughterhouse is operating, although at only 40% of capacity, and it does not contain cold storage facilities. There are several challenges related to pork production: The volume and quality of local pork is inferior to that of other market areas, small “backyard” producers dominate production, there is limited access to microfinance, there is limited access to and affordability of pig rations and semen for breeding, and there is severe competition between pig breeding and pig production. Despite these challenges, Richards feels that progress is being made through continual support of local government unit operators to train the slaughterhouse team in safe food handling, humane slaughtering, and animal inspection, support the slaughterhouse business plan development, promote the legal requirements to use the slaughterhouse for animal slaughter (as opposed to backyard slaughtering), and link the slaughterhouse to the pork value chain actors.

Richards concluded with several key lessons learned from the Philippines Cold Chain Project, noting that fragmented cold chain linkages result from poorly coordinated, poorly-planned and poorly-resourced food systems, limited private sector investment attraction, mostly smallholder-based agricultural production, lack of regulations and enforcement along the food system and cold chain, food producers (farmers) that are disempowered and not getting sufficient compensation, distributors and aggregators that have the majority of leverage and get most of the profits, and the absence of effective value chains in place.

C003The Summit included various networking events including a dinner for delegates.

Riccardo Savigliano, industrial development officer, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) opened in praise of the role that women play in the cold chain, in recognition of International Women’s Day. UNIDO works around the world with an emphasis on Sustainable Development Goal 9 – Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure – believing that everyone benefits from industrial growth coupled with an environmental sustainability frame.

Savigliano pointed out that using the existing model for food production and distribution, global food production would need to grow by 70% to feed the additional 2+ billion people anticipated by 2050, the majority of whom will be located in developing countries. He further noted that 40% of food losses in developing countries occur at the post-harvest and processing levels in large part due to inadequate cold storage and cold transport infrastructure. He highlighted some compelling statistics in support of an expanded, efficient cold chain, pointing out that less than 4% of India’s fresh products are transported under low-temperature conditions, versus a comparable figure of over 90% in the UK. Further, China has half the refrigerated vehicles of France, but more than 20 times the population. 

After briefly discussing cold chain projects in Jordan and Vietnam, Savigliano discussed a current, three-year global project for improving the cold chain in the Philippines. The project’s objective is to “identify, develop, and stimulate the application of low-carbon, energy-efficient refrigeration innovation technologies and business practices throughout the food cold chain while increasing food safety and security.” The project also involves the establishment of a global partnership with the private sector and collaboration with financial institutions for the promotion of investment and the transfer of technology and best practices. A cold chain hub will be a core part of the project, with the goal of making the cold chain in the Philippines more sustainable. Ultimately, the intent of the project is to foster market transformation. Savigliano noted in the ensuing question and answer segment that the innovation hub model of the Philippines project could be implemented in Vietnam, and that UNIDO is looking operate elsewhere.



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