The strengths of cold storage and cold-chain transportation to control post-harvest losses or save temperature-sensitive perishable food articles are nowadays much discussed in India. But in western countries, its limitations are reviewed and the focus is on dense forestation and good agricultural practices with proper land utility to face and weaken the harsh environment (climate change, droughts, floods, desertification or soil fertility decline) so that the qualitative nourishing crops could be produced in farms. It means India is late in adopting cold storage systems with proper cold-chain logistics. As a result the country has been facing huge post-harvest losses. Although the first cold storage in India, was established in 1892 in Kolkata, its country-wide expansion could take place from the 1960s onwards. After independence the ministry of agriculture, Government of India, came forward with the order known as ‘Cold Storage Order, 1964’ under the Essential Commodity Act, 1955 Section 3.

India’s food processing industry is believed to be 32 percent of total food market and it is also estimated that total food production in the country is likely to be almost doubled in the next ten years (India Brand Equity Foundation, IBEF). According to MOFPI, food processing industry which contributes 1.5 percent of India’s GDP and provides direct employment to 13 million people has potential to utilise perishable farm produce, including fruits and vegetables, if those are properly value added (dehydrated, freeze dried, spray dried, oxygen-free packaged or/and cold storage, cold chain transported). According to the Italian Trade Commission the food processing sector in India has been geared to international standards since 2006 when Food Safety Authority of India had the mandate to develop standards and also to harmonise the same with International Standards consistent with food hygiene and food safety requirements. Vast source of raw material, market in the form of large urban middle class, low production cost, change in consumption patterns, government assistance and conductive food processing policy environment are the genuine reasons to invest as per Italian Trade Commission’s statement on the investment scope in the Indian food processing sector. Therefore the time is now for Indians too to invest in the cold storage sector in the country. It is also stated that the growth in the main sub-categories in the processing industry could be described under fruit and vegetable processing 20 percent, milk and dairy 15 percent, vegetable oil and oilseed processing, grains, meat and poultry 10 percent etc. The industry is growing at an average of 16 percent, even passing 30 percent for the juice segment.

Cold storage involves the placement of perishable food articles, likely to be affected in hot and moist environments, in proper temperature and humidity controled conditions. Cold store is the major revenue generator for the Indian cold chain market (which involves safe transportation of perishable foods stored in refrigerated containers via trucks, railcars, ships and air cargo).

Novonous Report 2015

Published by Market Research Reports-Novonous on 14th of July 2015, ‘Cold Storage Market in India 2015-20’, ‘Freight Transport Market in India 2015-20’ and ‘Logistics Market in India 2015-20’ research reports indicate the expected market size of freight, logistics and cold storage market in India to be worth around $618.16 billion in 2020 with a nominal cold storage share of only $8.57 billion. According to this report, the freight transport market and logistics market in India shall be worth $307.70 billion and $301.89 billion by 2020. The eye opening fact revealed by the report is that India spends around 14.4 percent of its GDP on logistics and transportation as compared to less than 8 percent on average spent by the other developing countries. According to the report freight transport market, logistics market and cold storage market are expected to grow at CAGR of 13.35 percent, 12.17 percent and 16.09 percent in the period 2015-20.

Major Features of ‘Cold Storage Market in India’ Report

  • Indian cold storage market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 16.09 percent by 2020 driven by the growth in the organised retail, Indian fast food market, food processing industry and e-commerce sectors. Cold storage market in India is expected to be worth $8.57 billion by 2020. The cold storage market in India is highly fragmented with more than 3500 players in the unorganised sector and around 30 players in the organised sector;
  • India currently has 6156 cold storage facilities across various states with total capacity of 28.68 MMT which is insufficient. Due to lack of cold storage facilities, India has wastage of more than 450 MMT every year which leads to a huge amount of loss, and leads to shortage in the overall generation capability.

Key to Avoid Wastage

The Ministry of Food Processing Industries has launched the scheme to facilitate an efficient cold chain facility for agricultural, horticultural, dairy, fish & marine, poultry & meat products by establishing linkage from farm gate to the consumer. To reduce perishable food losses through efficient storage, transportation and minimal processing, the Cold Chain projects comprises minimal processing centres at the farm level with facility for weighing, sorting, grading waxing, packing, pre-cooling, Control Atmosphere (CA) cold storage, normal storage, Individual Quick Freezing (IQF), Mobile pre-cooling vans & reefer trucks, Distribution hubs – with multi products, multi Control Atmosphere (CA)/ Modified Atmosphere (MA) chamber, Packing facility, Cleaning in Process (CIP) Fog treatment, Individual Quick Freezing (IQF), blast freezing and Irradiation facilities.

The cold chains commonly employed in the food, and pharmaceutical and chemical industries particularly in shipments are run by the quality management system based on analysis, measurement, control, documentation and validation of the distribution process. The distribution process is required to be validated to ensure absence of negative factors that can affect safety or quality of articles. That’s why cold chain distribution systems are considered as extension of GMP (good manufacturing practice) environment with capabilities to take corrective measures for anomalies that normally occur in the process. The cold chains are evaluated and controlled by carriers and logistics providers capable of generating web-based documentation and providing electronic tracking. The temperature is the basic control point, likely to be maintained at 2-8 degree Celsius, on average (exactly depending on commodity, say, for grapes -1 to +1°C, for apple -1 to +3°C, for potato 1.5 to 4°C, for lemons 4-15°C, for cucumber 7-10°C, for mango 11-18°C etc.) which demands the use of refrigerator trucks (also called reefer trucks), reefer ships and refrigerated warehouses with critical documentation or proper records.

Now, Indian fruits and vegetables are supposed to perish at much lower rates during transportation due to the provisions of integrated controlled cold chain from farm gate to consumer. MOFPI has planned for transportation of perishable foods via mobile pre-cooling vans and reefer trucks. Furthermore the facility of weighing, sorting, grading, waxing, packing, pre-cooling, controlled and modified atmosphere, normal cold storage and individual quick freezing would be available at the farm level as well as at distribution hubs. According to Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal the National Food Map covering all food products, raw and processed, is likely to be created soon to identify critical products and districts and the cold chain grid is likely to be developed to link key fruit and vegetable hubs of the country to critical districts identified in the food map. As such the cold storage technique is the real key to avoid food wastage within the limitation of environmental conditions faced at the farm level. In fact cold storage technique has limited application in harsh environmental conditions of droughts, floods, storms etc. when huge amounts of food is wasted at the farm level.


  • Logistics is the core of efficient food chain governance. Improving supply chain management is of major importance to better link agricultural produce to urban markets;
  • Cold-chain logistics can well work with organic agriculture, which is characterised by principles of health, ecology, fairness and care. (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements);
  • In harsh environments like climate change, droughts, floods etc., cold-chain logistics can function to some extent to manage farm produce and save perishables, if landslide (in heavy rains) does not take place.

In India, the National Centre for cold-chain Development (NCCD) has set specialised trainings on ripening chamber operations at various places in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Ripening facilities ensure that the fruit output, typically mangoes, bananas, papayas, chikoo, avocado etc. have undergone a safe and hygienic process and counter the illegal practice of carbide triggered ripening. Creation of modern ripening chambers is supported under various Indian government schemes.

Ramesh Kumar Sharma is a freelance writer