Smt. Harsimrat Kaur Badal emphasizes the importance of Integrated Cold Chain Network in the uncertain and evolving times of COVID-19 pandemic

The Cold Chain Infrastructure provides backbone support by storing the perishables and ensuring the availability of fruits and vegetables throughout the year, said Union FPI Minister Smt. Harsimrat Kaur Badal. During a video conference with promoters of MoFPI supported cold chain projects today, 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 the farmers from uncertain circumstances and also facilitates stabilization of market prices. The Food Processing Industry has the potential to absorb the excess farm produce thereby benefiting the 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.

Sh. Rameswar Teli, MoS, 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 5 states, participated in the Video Conference.  The promoters interacted with the Union Minister and shared their experience gained/ 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 large 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 certain cases.  They pitched for 24*7 operations of the Mandis to ensure seamless supply of recently harvested fruits and vegetables.

The promoters involved in export of processed food items expressed their concerns on the rising prices of (sea/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 in order 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 of time. They said that 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 labourers, and urged for subsidy on power tariffs along with interest subvention on loans.

Apart from the above, following issues were discussed by Union Minister in the Video Conference:

1. Raw material availability and its high cost

2. Impact of Lockdown on operations

3. Labour and Logistics issues

4. High inventory costs

5. Liquidity crisis as payments have to be made to farmers