According to B R Shah, director, department of horticulture, government of Gujarat informed that the state is now focussing on developing cold storages for vegetable and other horticulture items. "Areas like Banaskantha and Sabarkantha are hubs for potato farming and have also seen development of potato cold storages. However, other vegetables and fruits also need cold storage network, and we would be focussing on that now," he said.
Areas like Mehsana are seeing addition of cold storages for farm produce like lemons, while Rajkot area is witnessing addition of cold storages for multiple crops. Shah added that his department has received proposals for another 15 new cold storages in the last three months.
In the last three years, nearly 120 new cold storages have come up in Gujarat, each with a cost of around Rs 4 crore, Shah informed.
The average capacity of cold storages is around 5,000 tonnes, and the sector has seen an investment of around Rs 450 crore in the past few years.
Gujarat currently has around 450 cold storages, primarily for the potato crop. Ashish Guru, president of the Gujarat Cold Storage Association said that around 216 cold storages were for potatoes and another 25 are coming up. Shah claimed that Gujarat is the only state that offers power subsidy for cold storages, with a cap of Rs 1 lakh per year on electricity bills.
This apart, experts at the Indian Cold chain Excellence (ICE) felt that in order to boost its overall cold chain infrastructure, India needs at least 30,000 pack houses as well as 60,000 reefer transport units.
A cold chain system primarily consists of pre-coolers, cold storages, controlled atmosphere stores, refrigerated carriers (or reefer transport units), pack houses and ripening chambers. The purpose is to maintain the ideal storage conditions till the perishables reach the customer from the farmers' end. Pack houses do sorting of farm produce according to quality, do the grading of the produce. In short, it is a critical part of the overall cold chain infrastructure.
According to Pawanexh Kohli, chief executive officer and advisor of the National Centre for Cold-chain Development (NCCD), an autonomous body of the government of India, "Pack houses act as the entry to the cold storages. This is where the farmers bring their produce and the sorting etc are done. Without pack houses, virtually, there is no entry to cold storages."
Kohli feels that while there is 31 million tonne of cold storage capacity in the country, the real need is to develop the overall infrastructure.
"The deficit lies in having pack houses and transport infrastructure. The government is now planning to do a study on the need gap at the entry and exit points to cold storages. As such, there should be one pack house every 20 villages, and India has around 600,000 villages across the country. However, even going by conservative estimates, we would need to have at least 30,000 pack houses in the near term," he explained.
This apart, there is a deficit at the transportation level as well, and experts feel that around 60,000 refrigerated carriers are needed to address the need gap.