Cold chains in the developing world: catch-up and leapfrog

Cold chain capacity in the major developing economies is inadequate by any measure. In China, 12 million tonnes of fruit and 130 million tonnes of vegetables are damaged each year at an estimated cost of $20 billion – which is perhaps unsurprising since only 5% is transported by cold chain39, compared to 90% in the UK.40 In India, where less than 4% of the 104 million tonnes of fresh produce transported each year goes by cold chain41, the value lost to wastage is $13 billion.42

Investment is booming, however. China's cold chain is now reported to be growing at 25% per year and projected to be worth $75 billion by 2017.43 The Indian cold chain is also forecast to grow at 25% per year to 201744, when annual revenues in the sector are expected to reach $13 billion.45 The Indian government estimates the country needs to invest $15 billion in cold chain over the next five years.46

Yet cold chain investment in both countries is patchy and deeply unbalanced. In both China and India there has been huge investment in cold storage but much less in refrigerated transport, meaning that often the cold 'chain' is nothing of the sort.

39 Cold chain opportunity assessments, University of Nottingham, 2014, http://naturalleader.com/wp-content/themes/natlead/images/CRC3656-ColdChainOpp.pdf

40 Country: India's cold chain industry, US Commercial Service, Department of Commerce. Renie Subin, August 2011

41 Country: India's cold chain industry, US Commercial Service, Department of Commerce. Renie Subin, August 2011

42 Why onions bring tears to Indian eyes, ALJAZEERA, November 2013 http://m.aljazeera.com/story/201310301335083469

43 Cold chain opportunity assessments, University of Nottingham, 2014, http://naturalleader.com/wp-content/themes/natlead/images/CRC3656-ColdChainOpp.pdf

44 Global Cold Chain Market For Food Industry, Markets and Markets, 2013, ttp://www.marketsandmarkets.com/

45 Cold Chain industry in India http://indiacoldchainshow.com/Cold-Chain-Industry-in-India-A-Report.pdf

46 Cold chain investments in India could reach $15 billion in 5 years: IMechE report July, 2014 http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-07-04/news/51076336_1_renewable-energy-cold-chains-mechanical-engineers