Challenges in Seafood Cold Chain

May 7, 2018

Demanding logistics requirements combined with difficult weather and environmental conditions make seafood logistics especially challenging. As spoilage of fish begins right from the time it is caught, proper storage, preservation and quick disposal are crucial.

Some of the key challenges across the supply chain include:

1. Inadequate cold storage and transportation facilities: Inadequate cold storage and transportation facilities at retail level compound the problem of seafood wastage. A wholesaler of fish can afford to have a cold storage wagon to supply fish at retail markets. The retail suppliers are small traders; cycle/rickshaw or head-load vendors who use ice for storage and cannot afford capital intensive storage facilities. The quality of water used in ice preparation can also cause degradation of quality of fish. Further, the inability to respond to changing safety and quality standards is a major concern in developing countries especially in India.

2. Unorganized Channels: Presently, fish markets, both wholesale and retail in the country are in a pathetic condition. Besides, a larger volume of fish is sold through unorganized channels via street markets, often on footpaths. This unhygienic environment and the fact that fish is seldom kept in ice, results in fast deterioration of the quality of the fish. Mostly whole fish is sold in the market and there is negligible processing/value addition. Further, while marketing, transportation or storage of fish, the standard norms of hygiene and sanitation are least considered, leading to a product that is contaminated and unsafe from food safety point of view.

3. Spoilage during the monsoon season:  Various studies have indicated to the high levels of wastage in the Indian fishery due to spoilage especially during the monsoon season, when up to 30 percent of the catch could be lost. Therefore, strengthening of post- harvest infrastructure such as cold storage facilities, ice plants, freezing/processing units, roads and transportation, modern and hygienic wholesale and retail market outlets etc., as well as effective marketing system in identified areas are the key requirements for the development of this sector. This would ensure higher profit margins to the fish producers accelerating the growth of the sector. This will also promote quality assurance and better food safety standards for fish food for domestic consumers and also for the export market.

4. Lack of awareness and appreciation: There is lack of awareness and appreciation for cold chain systems especially in the more remote and rural areas where artisanal fishermen operate. During recent years, low value fishes have dominated the landings, whereas the contribution of prime varieties of fish has declined. The inability of the local processing houses to comply with the regulations has resulted in the rejection of marine/fishery products in the overseas market. There is an urgent requirement on expanding and strengthening domestic marketing of fish by supporting fresh fish preservation, transportation and marketing through hygienic and organized retail outlets. Large processing units are expanding and modernizing their processing units which would entail investments in cold chain infrastructure starting from harvesting of fish to exports. The potential exists in providing cost effective cold chain solutions starting from ice manufacturing/handling, refer vans/insulated vehicles and cold storages to improve the quality of fish.

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