The cold chain infrastructure provides backbone support by storing the perishables and ensuring the availability of fruit and vegetables throughout the year, said Union Food Processing Industries (FPI) minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal. During a video conference with promoters of MoFPI supported cold chain projects, union minister emphasized the importance of food processing enterprises, especially the Integrated Cold Chain Network, in the present uncertain and evolving circumstances in view of COVID pandemic. It saves farmers from unpredictable circumstances and also facilitates the stabilization of market prices. The Food Processing Industry has the potential to absorb the excess farm produce, thereby benefiting farmers and, at the same time, convert the harvest into a value-added processed product that can meet the domestic as well as the global demand.
Rameswar Teli, minister of state, MoFPI, was also present in the video conference with the promoters of completed Integrated Cold Chain Projects supported by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries in the States of Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Rajasthan. This was the second such interaction (in a series of web meetings) of Union FPI Minister, with the promoters of MoFPI supported projects to facilitate seamless operations of FPIs. The promoters of 38 cold chain projects, across five states, participated in the video conference.
The promoters interacted with the Union Minister and shared their experience gained or problems faced in completing the projects. Further, the promoters also shared the hardships and problems faced in running the cold chain projects during the lockdown period.
The promoters expressed their concerns on the decision of the local Government authorities to limit the hours of operations of Mandis to avoid overcrowding. They said that the limited hours of operations have slowed down the procurement process – leading to massive waiting queues for farmers who wait to bring their produce to Mandis. They further shared that delay affects the quality of perishable food products and significantly reduces their price while leading to wastage in some instances. They pitched for 24*7 operations of the Mandis to ensure a seamless supply of recently harvested fruits and vegetables.
The promoters involved in the export of processed food items expressed their concerns on the rising prices of (sea and air) freight, which is rendering their product less competitive in the global arena. They said that the freight charges have gone up by 30 %. They requested the authorities to provide in-land as well as destination freight subsidies to support domestic industries to compete globally.
Citing the low domestic demand amidst the COVID Pandemic, the industry representatives from the Cold Chain sector, unanimously pitched for subsidy in the power tariffs. They urged that a cold store needs to function 24*7, and the plant compressors cannot be shut at any point in time. They said that the movement of perishables to and from cold stores has reduced in the past few days. The promoters further shared that they are experiencing a liquidity crunch due to obligation for the wages and salaries of employees and laborer’s and urged for subsidy on power tariffs along with interest subvention on loans.
Apart from the above, issues discussed by union minister in the video conference included raw material availability and its high cost, the impact of lockdown on operations, labor and logistics issues, high inventory costs, and liquidity crisis as payments have to be made to farmers.