Report: Cold Chain and Logistics Management for Agri-food Products workshop in Fiji, 11-15 December (2017)

Photo courtesy of National Productivity Organization of Fiji

The Asian Productivity Organization together with the Ministry of Agriculture Fiji Islands, put together a myriad of different personalities, of which, majority came from developing countries whose current agricultural systems needed to be spruced up by the introduction of cold chain practices.

Dr. Shaikh Tanveer Hossain, Program Officer APO Agricultural Department, served as the Program Director for the whole week.

The workshop agenda included plenary sessions with presentations from industry experts like Dr. Rodney Wee of the Asian Cold Chain Centre in Singapore, who introduced the basics and future of cold chain management. Mr. Brendan Hoare of Pure New Zealand, who emphasized a customer centric approach in developing a cold chain strategy. And Mr. Avinash Srivastava of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, India who shared his personal experiences on how the government of India provides financial support for the development of the Cold Chain industry in his country.

Resource Persons (L-R): Dr. Srivastava, Dr. Hossain, Dr. Wee, Dr. Hoare

Part of the workshop was an industry tour giving the participants a hands-on experience on the current practices of the local Fiji farmers and their efforts – together with the Ministry of Agriculture – to implement the cold chain to enhance their growing vegetable and fruit export industries. This part of the workshop proved valuable as it gave more weight to the message I delivered which stated: “you do not have to be big in the cold chain to be successful, you just have to think big and believe you can do it.”

Overall the workshop delivered the importance of the cold chain in the agricultural sector. The ball has now been passed to the participants of each individual country for them to either keep it as a personal enrichment activity or to be the advocate of cold chain in their respective countries.

WORKSHOP DETAILS

The workshop commenced on December 11, 2017 at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi, Fiji. The opening remarks delivered by the Ministry of Agriculture of Fiji represented by their Permanent Secretary, Mr. Jitendra Singh, the local partner Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP) represented by their Director General, Mr. Tevita Boseiwaqa Taginivalu, and APO represented by Dr. Shaikh Tanveer Hossain. The presence of the Permanent Secretary gave emphasis that Fiji is indeed serious with the development and expansion of its agricultural sector.

Permanent Secretary Singh announced that the government of Fiji is allocating US 1 Million Dollars for the development and promotion of the cold chain systems in the country. He would like to be introduced to the systems and models which are already in place. But he also emphasized that whatever system is available should take into consideration the affordability factor for the farmers of Fiji.

He is an advocate of minimizing food wastage through the development of the cold chain and is in the belief that if the agriculture of the country is developed and is able to provide the necessary livelihood to the people, rural development will also move forward.

As such, he is pushing for the promotion and development of the cold chain in Fiji with the aim of enforcing the safety standards, maintaining the safety, shelf-life and economic value of the products. This will include government as the provider of key policies and support to infrastructure.

The Philippines can provide the support on technical assistance in this area. Unlike countries such as Singapore, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea which have a very advanced approach to cold chain management. The Philippines is still in the growth stage and can empathize with the situation of Fiji which include; isolated islands which need logistical and cold chain support, a developing farm based agri-industry slowly realizing the importance of cold chain for their products and a citizenry which still prefer the traditional methods of food handling rather than passing through the cold chain.

Dr. Shaikh Tanveer Hossain, APO Program Director shared his experience in the Philippines as part of his opening remarks. He presented the efforts of Ms. Pacita “Chit” Juan in the area of coffee on how she was able to provide for a local industry and livelihood. Dr. Hossain also presented the workshop and country paper requirements.

The remainder of the day was covered by the three resource speakers which included Dr. Rodney Wee who covered the areas which is concerned with the development of cold chain and logistics for the agri-food industry. Dr. Wee highlighted the need to know and understand the product that you are handling. Basic product knowledge provides you the proper methods to ensure that what you are doing to the product is correct – which increase the quality, shelf-life and value of the product.

Dr. Wee also provided new customer trends that are currently being implemented in Singapore like the Central Kitchen concept being done by the airlines. Although this concept is not new to the Philippine setting, the idea and principles behind it can be used in countries which have a limited appreciation and implementation of cold chain like Fiji, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal (who are also participants in the workshop).

Mr. Avinash Srivastava presented the schemes being implemented in India to support the development of the cold chain which include; tax incentives (no tax for 5 years), capital subsidies of not less than 20% of the project cost. This includes the building of new facilities and the re-development or expansion of current facilities.

Mr. Brand Hoare focused on the emotional attachment of being able to convince consumers that your product is better if it passes through quality processes – thus the need for the cold chain.

Before the day ended, Dr. Hossain lined up options for post projects which can be implemented in the respective participants country’s which are; National forums of which the APO can provide both budget of up to US 10,000 dollars and representatives to present, Technical Expert Services and consultations with which APO can cover all cost incurred. And the last is a Specific National Program which has a high impact to the agricultural and cold chain development side. As of the moment, there are a lot of opportunities that the cold chain industry in the Philippines is looking into and of which I am part of. There are those that are involved in the area of freeze drying of vegetables in Benguet to preserve the quality and value of the produce and the potential of establishing processing facilities for the resurgence of the aqua-culture industry. However, the programs that APO would like to look into would have to have a form of rural development (provide a means of livelihood to people in the rural area). As such, once the opportunity arises, I will immediately flag the ideas to the APO office.

Day 2 started with a recap of the discussions of Day 1 and proceeded with the discussion of Cold Chain and logistics services for small farmers in Asia and the Pacific. Mr. Hoare presented opportunities wherein the government can help the small farmers in their businesses by providing help in finding the strategic advantage of the product trough branding of the agricultural products and financial assistance to set up the agri business.

Dr. Hossain presented a low cost, no electricity option for preserving vegetables in off grid areas. I will have the opportunity to be able to try this option out during my trip to Benguet in Q1 of 2018. Dr. Hossain also has several other publications which have been internationally recognized like the garden in a sack project in Bangladesh. His works have been tried and tested in rural communities in other countries and can be easily replicated in the Philippines.

The afternoon of the second day was allocated for the country presentations of each participant. Given that at least half of the participants were from government, the information that they have of the current cold chain capabilities in their countries are limited. Their idea of a cold chain is a big expensive refrigerated warehouse that is so hard to build and operate. The Philippines was the only country represented by an industry practitioner in the temperature controlled warehouse and transport industry and thus, was given additional time to present options on how to effectively operate a temperature controlled supply chain – with the emphasis of being big does not make you successful. The presentation garnered interest in the Fijian participants and they have mentioned a proposal to visit to the Philippines in 2018 for educational purposes will be forwarded to the Minister. The same will be performed by the industry association (CCAP) and the Global Cold Chain Alliance in March 2018 for visitors from Indonesia.

The third day was focused on the industry tour. Three (3) facilities were visited, all of which were involved in the contract growing of fruits and vegetables either for local consumption or for export to countries like New Zealand and Australia. The visit re-emphasized the point I made during the presentation on the size of facilities. The facilities visited were using refrigerated facilities only as big as 20 foot container reefer vans yet they can export at least 4,000 kilos of produce a week.

One of the noted information picked up was that they are limited to exporting to countries where there is a local Fijian market. Their exports to other western countries are limited because of the distance and limited knowledge on how to preserve the organic products. In the group report we developed after the visit, we identified potential markets which can already be tapped by the current set-up like; (a) Potential to add value adding services like minimal processing – slicing, ready to eat or ready to cook portions or further processing like fruit pulps, fresh juices, etc. and (b) Expansion of international markets, taking advantage of airlines that call on Fiji, demand for tropical crops in other countries.

Happy to note that our group was the first and only team that did not need to re-do the final presentation. We were approved on the first pass.

CONCLUSION

In the cold chain, you do not have to be big to be successful. This has been my message during my presentation and it was the same I delivered when they asked me to deliver the thank you message for the class.

Overall the workshop was able to relay the importance of the cold chain to the participants. It also provided the participants an insight on how they can work and convince their respective governments to provide the necessary support to build the cold chain infrastructure and to generate policies that can help develop the cold chain practice.

SUBMITTED BY

MARC ANTHONY DIZON
Executive Director
Cold Chain Association of the Philippines, Inc. (CCAP)
Email: marcdizon @ koldstor.com

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