Today, high-quality, exotic fruits and vegetables in the produce section of an American grocery store are expected. In fact, they are only noteworthy when they cannot be found but are needed for a new recipe. This development demonstrates the success of the cold chain industry in the United States, which is so fundamental to food and agriculture that most Americans do not consider how their food arrives on their table. It is taken for granted that we are able to access to high quality, safe food from all regions of the world.
The cold chain industry is one of the most important developments for food safety and reduction in food loss, especially for certain highly nutritious products such as meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables. These products all depend on temperature stability to prevent damage and preserve nutrition. Without a viable cold chain, countries suffer high rates of food loss. They also face problems when it comes to food safety and are often unable to export their products, which prevents them from growing economically.
The Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA) works to grow the industry and lead the cold chain. As a global organization, GCCA recognizes that the cold chain industry in many countries has not yet developed; it is still in the very early stages and is often in need of assistance. With this in mind, the GCCA supports the cold chain where it is needed the most through our core partner, the World Food Logistics Organization (WFLO). The WFLO is research, training, and educational arm of the GCCA. By partnering with aid organizations and international development partners, the GCCA and WFLO help emerging economies and lower-income countries meet the challenges presented when growing a global cold chain.
Global Cold Chain Alliance Member Invests in Moroccan Cold Storage
In 2012, GCCA, through the WFLO, worked with Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI) on the USAID-funded Morocco Economic Competitiveness (MEC) project by hosting activities to identify and promote potential cold chain investment opportunities in Morocco. Specific activities included a webinar introduction, Business-to-Business (B2B) matchmaking, and advisory services.
A webinar open to all GCCA members took place on September 26, 2012 led by GCCA with featured speaker, Matt Meredith of Lixia Capsia (LixCap) who presented several investment opportunities in Morocco. Approximately 2 months later, LixCap established Atlas Cold Port on November 28, 2012 as the entity to develop a food logistics platform at the Port of Tanger Med.
The webinar included the participation of GCCA member, Friopuerto, a cold storage operator in Valencia, Spain. Principals of LixCap met with Mr. Manuel Cabrera Kabana Sartorius of Friopuerto Invest SL and subsequently began a business partnership to develop jointly the Tanger Med Project with local investors Yacout Investissement.
Since this time, Atlas Cold Port has been rebranded as Friopuerto Tanger. With a total investment commitment into Morocco of USD 15 million, the first phase of the facility opened in February 2016 to create a “fresh hub” at the Port of Tanger Med. This hub will include cold and fresh storage, packaging, processing, and handling services. It will also:
- Meet the requirements of agricultural product importers and exporters, enabling Morocco to be used as a logistics platform.
- Create a development opportunity for smaller producers through access to new markets
- Provide a professional and fully certified public refrigerated warehouse
- Serve as the anchor platform for a network of port facilities around the Mediterranean basin and west Africa.
“This project is an excellent example of how the development work of the WFLO, Richard and Amanda, can be used to create for-profit investible opportunities for GCCA members that serve important development needs. We are actively looking for other opportunities like this with WFLO.” – Matthew Meredith, partner LixCap.
Cold Chain Strengthening Occurs in Uzbekistan with GCCA Support
Since 2011, GCCA has partnered with DAI in Uzbekistan to provide cold chain expertise on two USAID-funded projects. On the AgLinks project from 2011-2014 GCCA focused on the instilling best practices with the nascent cold storage industry, most of which had been built during the Soviet era. With one full-time staff, Mr. Mumin Isamiddinov devoted to the project as the Regional Cold Chain Advisor, GCCA brought in short-term international technical experts to provide supplemental consultations and training on transport, logistics, design build and warehouse operations. This project focused on Namangan, Ferghana, Samarkand and Tashkent provinces of Uzbekistan.
The Agricultural Value Chains Project (AVC) project began in 2015 and builds on the success of AgLinks with expansion into new areas of Uzbekistan. It will last until 2018 with a potential for extension in 2020. The longer-term commitment by USAID in Uzbekistan with a focus on cold storage best practices has enabled GCCA to witness the impact that can occur in lower-income countries with the right advice, leadership and guidance.
Three of the cold store operators that the AgLinks project worked with (and who AVC continues to support) were all able to increase the volume of product stored. In one case, one operator located a partner to share the space while another added an additional 65 metric tons. More impressively, a third operator used the techniques and technical assistance taught during GCCA training increased the volume of his facility by 200 tons. This expansion was driven by a desire to rent space and public service for entrepreneurs during the summer for high-value apricots and other offseason products.
These operators have all seen improvements after focusing their efforts on cold storage for high value products. Specifically, it has enabled them to manage their business through h the highs and lows. One operator noted that “one month of operations for the apricot harvest and export covered all of the losses incurred while storing lower value products.”
In 2016, AVC received five requests for consultation on the construction of new cold stores and the retrofitting of old spaces. On average, owners recovered 30 to 40 percent of the capital investment in the first year by providing precooling services to exporters. An additional 20 to 30 percent is expected to be recovered through renting space for the storage of fresh products. All five have the intention to increase their cold storage investments over the next few years.
There is potential for greater success from the foundation laid by AgLinks. However, there are external factors that affect cold storage businesses, and these external factors are having an impact on the export business in Uzbekistan. Fundamental to the success of the AgLinks project has been the support of the Government. Currently, changes in export regulations have caused many exporters in Uzbekistan to switch focus and invest in neighboring countries. Much of this investment is going to Southern Tajikistan and Southern Kazakhstan. This is resulting in a shift of the skilled labor and technical knowledge into these areas and out of Uzbekistan. There is the need for continued engagement as this unfolds.