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Seafood cold chain… challenges aplenty

Demanding logistics requirements, combined with difficult weather and environmental conditions, make seafood logistics especially challenging, says Cold Chain Management.

| | Jun 20, 2018 | 4:43 pm
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Karnal, Haryana, India, 18 June 2018: Spoilage of fish begins right from the time it is caught, therefore, proper storage, preservation and quick disposal are crucial, according to Cold Chain Management (CCM).

Some of the key challenges across the supply chain in India, CCM said, are:

Inadequate cold storage and transportation facilities: Inadequate cold storage and transportation facilities at the retail level are compounding the problem of seafood wastage, CCM said. A wholesaler of fish can afford to have a cold storage wagon to supply fish at retail markets; however, the retail suppliers are small traders – cycle-rickshaw or head-load vendors – who use ice for storage and cannot afford capital intensive storage facilities, CCM further said. The quality of water used in ice preparation can also cause degradation of the quality of fish, CCM added. The inability to respond to changing safety and quality standards is a major concern in developing countries, especially in India, CCM further added.

Unorganised channels: Presently, fish markets, both wholesale and retail in India are in a deplorable condition, CCM said. A large volume of fish is sold through unorganised channels through street markets, often on footpaths, where the unhygienic environment and the fact that merchandise is seldom kept in ice, results in fast deterioration of the quality of the product, CCM further said. Usually, whole fish is sold in the market, and there is negligible processing/value addition, CCM added. While marketing, transporting or storing fish, the standard norms of hygiene and sanitation are least considered, leading to a product that is contaminated and unsafe from a food safety point of view, CCM further added.

Spoilage during the monsoon season: Various studies have indicated the high levels of wastage in Indian fishery due to spoilage, especially during the monsoon season, when up to 30% of the catch could be lost, CCM said. Therefore, strengthening of post-harvest infrastructure, such as cold storage facilities, ice plants, freezing/processing units, roads and transportation, modern and hygienic wholesale and retail market outlets as well as an effective marketing system in identified areas, are the key requirements for the development of this sector, CCM further said. This would ensure higher profit margins to the fish producers, accelerating the growth of the sector, and will also promote quality assurance and better food safety standards for fish food for domestic consumers, as well as for the export market, CCM added.

Lack of awareness and appreciation: There is lack of awareness and appreciation for cold chain systems, especially in the more remote and rural areas, where artisanal fishermen operate, CCM said. During recent years, low-value fish have dominated the landings, whereas the contribution of prime varieties of fish has declined and the inability of the local processing houses to comply with the regulations has resulted in the rejection of marine/fishery products in the overseas market, CCM further said. There is an urgent requirement for expanding and strengthening domestic marketing of fish by supporting fresh fish preservation, transportation and marketing through hygienic and organised retail outlets, CCM added. Large processing units are expanding and modernising their processing units, which would entail investments in cold chain infrastructure starting from harvesting of fish to exports, CCM further added.

According to CCM, the potential exists in providing cost-effective cold chain solutions, such as ice manufacturing/handling, reefer vans/insulated vehicles and cold storage facilities, to improve the quality of fish available in the market.

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