WFLO Snapshot: Strengthening the Cold Chain Around the World

The World Food Logistics Organization (WFLO), a GCCA Core Partner, continues to work with aid organizations and international development partners to help emerging economies and lower-income countries meet the challenges that arise when growing a global cold chain. Projects in some key areas of the world are described in this article. 

India

In January 2018, a team of industry experts traveled to India to examine the country’s cold chain infrastructure and operational practices and to identify constraints and gaps with a focus on imports of fruit originating in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. One of those experts was Arne Martinsen, a transportation consultant and a Public Member of the WFLO Board of Governors. “With expertise in transportation, my assignment in assessing India’s cold chain was not so much to look at capacity, but rather at capabilities and the road ahead.” He observed that, “Private port, ocean shipping, and transportation stakeholders are entering the cold chain logistics infrastructure with significant investments in railroad wagons and equipment to control the reefer container movements connecting the ports with ICDs (Interior Container Depots) that have essential cold storage facilities. Through these systems, container shipping lines endeavor to offer ‘through B/L (Bills of Lading)’ from foreign origin ports to cold storages in India’s interior and vice versa for export shipments.” “A positive part of the India experience was to meet with companies that are totally on top of how to handle perishables and fruit via their own warehousing and transportation facilities with procedures that are on par with the United States,” Martinsen notes. He underlined, however, that key factors that severely affect the efficiencies in the overall Indian cold chain are the lack of systems and procedures in the broader reefer transport sector. “There is a need for training of both truck drivers and the technicians that handle maintenance and equipment settings,” Martinsen says. The efficiency gap that Martinsen notes is one of the specific areas that will be addressed with an extensive program prepared by the GCCA. The program is part of a follow-up assignment in which GCCA staff will return to India in November 2018, to validate the results of the assessment with key Indian senior level business leaders to gain their support and secure buy-in for next steps. These include the GCCA/WFLO conducting a series of technical trainings for storage and logistics operators that will address the identified cold chain gaps as well as strategy workshops resulting in the development of a “Best Practices in the Cold Chain” handbook that is unique and actionable for India.

Southeast

Asia Martinsen was also a member of the team that traveled to the Philippines and Indonesia in August and November of 2016 to conduct a baseline assessment of the cold chain infrastructure in each country. The assessment was the first phase of a program funded by the USDA Emerging Markets Program (EMP) that directs the GCCA/WFLO and the Strategic International Alliance of Marketing (SIAM) Professionals to help establish a sustainable platform for intensifying cold chain development in the two countries through a series of capacity building activities. The Philippines is made up of more than 7,000 islands of which 2,000 are inhabited. Martinsen says his focus was on assessing how imported perishables were distributed from the main port in Manila, out to the provinces and islands. “To begin with, like any large city in Southeast Asia, Manila is so congested with traffic that it can take hours for the produce to get from the port to cold storage. From there the produce is loaded into small refrigerated trucks that use the ferry systems for onwards transport to the islands,” Martinsen explains. However, Martinsen adds that both countries have many examples of excellent progress towards having a first-rate cold chain. He points out that on the main island of Java, a free trade zone has been established that is relatively close to the port of Jakarta, the capital and biggest city, and which has a direct double-track rail connection to and from Surabaya, the major port city in East Java. “We interviewed a freight forwarding company in Surabaya that is doing everything right. They have their own field technicians and a fleet of generators for reefers, and their logistics experts have strong working relationships with both the shipping lines and the railroad.” With the assessment complete, the Cold Chain Association of the Philippines (CCAP) and the WFLO led a study tour of Indonesians and Filipinos to Manila and the island province of Cebu in March 2018, to examine inter-island logistics. Since then, the WFLO has hosted Cold Chain Executive Connections (CCEC) in the Philippines and Indonesia designed around discussion of the assessment results and to promote exchange between Indonesian and Filipino participants. Training events will be held in early 2019.

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is one of the fastest growing economies in the Caribbean, and the country’s agricultural sector has the potential to drive significant economic growth, particularly because of export opportunities through the Central America Free Trade Agreement and other regional trade agreements. Yet a high percentage of the country’s products are refused due to food safety concerns caused by pests, illegal pesticide residue, and other contaminants. In the Dominican Republic, the WFLO/ GCCA supports the International Executive Service Corps (IESC), a not-for-profit economic development organization that implements the Dominican Republic Exporting Quality Program, a four-year program funded by the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service. The program is intended to improve product quality, increase production efficiency and the value of post-harvest products, and enhance marketing and market linkages. In order to improve the Dominican Republic’s cold chain, the WFLO/GCCA and IESC have provided technical assistance by conducting a cold chain assessment, facilitating cold chain knowledge-sharing and action planning that has led to cold chain conferences, and ensured participation in, and support of, Cold Chain Working Groups. The Working Groups, which were assembled after the 2016 assessment to plan next steps for the cold chain in the Dominican Republic with support from the program, are divided into three interest areas: port and airport; production and packing houses; and institutional and government agencies. In 2018, WFLO/GCCA and IESC organized workshops for exporters shipping to Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland and also offered technical assistance to packing houses throughout the country. Stakeholders in the Dominican Republic’s cold chain were invited to attend educational and training sessions at both the Global Cold Chain Expo in Chicago in June and the WFLO Latin American Institute in Mexico City in July. In addition, 12 individuals traveled to Mexico and then onto Miami to be able to observe an efficient cold chain from one end to the other. The participants represented every sector of the cold chain in the Dominican Republic from private and public sector producers to cargo agents and representatives from shipping lines and airlines. “The participants were able to observe the whole length of a top-rate cold chain including best practices at one of the largest packing houses in the world, state-of-the-art warehouse construction, and the transportation of perishables in preparation for export to Miami,” explains Nilsy Delgado, Asian Vegetables Value Chain and Cold Chain Facilitator, Exporting Quality Program, IESC. “And then at the other end in Miami, they were immersed in the logistics of the cold chain connection.” Delgado adds that an information sharing, follow-up session was held in Santo Domingo in September so all the participants involved in the different international trips could meet and share their experiences and what they are doing with the knowledge they gained. “One participant told us they had already implemented a major change at their packing house based on what they observed in Mexico,” Delgado explained. “They now maintain a temperature-controlled environment in the whole facility, not just the designated cold room. This is a huge change because typically in the Dominican Republic, product is packed in normal temperatures and then stored in the cold room.” “In my opinion, the stakeholders in the cold chain in the Dominican Republic are very engaged and if I look back at where the cold chain was two years ago when the initial assessment was conducted, we’ve accomplished a lot of good things, and people are more conscious of the consequences of not having an adequate cold chain,” says Delgado. Delgado says next steps in the fourth and final year of the program include supporting the Working Groups as they prepare final action recommendations, and providing additional training in perishable cargo handling as well as transportation.