An agricultural export promotion agency of the Indian government is building cold storage facilities at more than a dozen airports in the country in a bid to increase exports of perishable food products by 25% in a year’s time.
At present, only the six international airports at New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram have cold storage facilities for perishable cargo.
“We are covering as many airports as we can,” said Harpal Singh, deputy general manager at the Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda).
He added that the agency would focus on international airports, even those where “there is a single international flight”.
Singh said the facilities would cost a total of around Rs55 crore, which would be funded by the ministry of commerce and industry, which oversees Apeda.
According to Apeda’s plans, bigger airports such as those in Kochi, Kolkata and Guwahati will have elaborate cold storage facilities, including a receiving area for perishable produce, weighing, X-ray, palletization, and storage.
Smaller airports such as Tiruchirapalli, Srinagar and Jammu will have refrigerated containers that can store 8-10 tonnes of perishable products.
Singh said almost 50% of the freshness of the produce is lost in India itself before the consignment is loaded onto a plane. “We want to cut down the period by providing better infrastructure,” he added.
Singh said that while earlier it took six-eight hours to load perishable cargo at Indian airports, this time has been reduced after the airports acquired better handling and storage facilities.
At New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, for instance, it takes just two hours for this process.
Apeda is also looking at building such facilities at smaller airports. For example, the agency is building a cold chain at Guwahati and refrigerated containers at some other airports in northeastern cities including Imphal, Dimapur and Agartala.
“There are some special produce from the North-East… for example, kiwis,” said Singh. “The idea is to bring these to the other parts of the country as well as (export them) to the world.”
Apeda will either build the facilities and hand them over to government agencies or fund the agencies to build them.