Don't be surprised, the next time you a see a refrigerated freezer van zip past toll booths. The government is working on a proposal to allow refrigerated trucks and vans toll-free access across all states. The vans, mainly used to transport perishable commodities, suffer valuable loss of time when stuck in toll booths for mandatory clearances.
Officials said the proposal, mooted by the National Centre For Cold Chain Development (NCCD), has received the backing of ministry of road transport as well. NCCD is an umbrella organisation to develop policies, promote and lay down guidelines for growth of cold chains in the country,
“What we have suggested is that refrigerated vans and trucks should be allowed hassle-free movement across all toll nakas and any mandatory inspection should be done only once because in transportation of perishable commodities time is a key factor and even a delay of few hours could make the commodity unfit for human consumption,” Captain Pawanexh Kohli, chief advisor of NCCD told Business Standard.
NCCD works under the guidance of ministry of agriculture and is monitored by a high-level inter-ministerial group, which also includes officials from the Prime Minister's Office.
Kohli said NCCD has also suggested that all trucks and vans carrying perishable items like fruits, vegetables, fish and meat should have special toll-free numbers printed on them, which are then linked to a common call centre to address all the problem of transporters in moving goods of such nature from one place to another. The suggestion formed part of its recommendations to revitalize the cold chain network in the country
There are around 7,000-8,000 refrigerated vans or trucks having a total carrying capacity of 3.6 million tonnes in India, according to official records.
However, this is far below the requirement, given that India is the world’s second largest producer of fruits and vegetables after China and produces around 266 million tonnes of these items in a year.
According to an official estimate, around 20,000-25,000 refrigerated trucks are needed to ensure that fruits, vegetables and other perishable items are transported efficiently across the country
Not, only refrigerated vans, which are just one part of the whole eco-system of cold storages, Kohli said a lot more needs to be done for the cold chain network itself. As on date, the country has around just 6,448 cold storages with a total installed capacity of 30.4 million tonnes.
But, the requirement at 70 million tonnes is double of existing capacity. “Apart from this, we need around 150,000 pre-coolers and pack houses, which at present do not have any concept in India,” Kohli said. He said the country urgently needs to have an entire eco-system of cold chains which at present is centered only around cold storages.