Cold chain reduces banana crop wastage for Indian farmers and opens up new export markets

Cold chain technology has been a game changer for Indian banana farmers. Their income has tripled, while banana wastage has been brought down by almost 20 per cent. In 2018, the first Indian bananas were exported to Europe by ship, which marks a new era for the world’s banana giant.

Every third banana on the planet is produced in India. A third of this number, nine million tonnes, are produced within the state of Tamil Nadu. But, over the years, farmers of Tamil Nadu have witnessed a post-harvest loss of 30 per cent. The bananas were wasted in a country in urgent need food for 300 million people.

The situation has taken a positive turn since Danfoss initiated a task force with the Confederation of Indian Industry to address the challenges of food loss – focusing on bananas. The task force identified three major blocks: lack of good agricultural practices at the pre-harvest stage, good post-harvest management and failure to connect with the market. Danfoss has worked on two interventions, based on the company’s global expertise in cooling. First, pre-cooling the newly harvested bananas to extend the shelf life and quality of the bananas. Second, ripening chambers have resulted in better efficiencies and better control.

“We see cold chain as a game changer. The two interventions have resulted in three times higher value for the farmers and a wastage reduction of nearly 20%,” says Ravi Purushothaman, President of Danfoss India.

New technology has been a game changer for banana farmer Mr Sivamani from Tamil Nadu.

“Ten years ago, we had 10 employees. Today, 200 families are dependent on this farm. New technologies like cold chain and reefer containers have made it possible for us to extend the quality and shelf life of the bananas, and we have exported the first bananas to Europe. My dream is that soon we will export to the whole world.”

Cold chain means control over the crops

With India becoming the global leader in banana production, productivity and export is the declared purpose of the National Research Center for Bananas, driven by the Indian Government. Director of the center, Dr S. Uma, explains that cold chain is ultimately about giving the millions of farmers control over their crops.

“India is a vast country and even sending bananas from the south to the north becomes equivalent to exportation – it is a huge process. So here, cold chain has a major impact. We have reached a stage where we must showcase the rich diversity of the banana. People should be exposed to what they have not seen. Then they will appreciate,” says the director, continuing:

“Cold chain allows us to keep the bananas at the right temperature so that they stay green for longer. And then, when there is a demand, we can release them onto the market. This is how cold chain has come into the picture and the government is supporting cold rooms all over the country. This has given us the confidence that bananas can be exported to the whole world.”

The first bananas from India were exported to Europe by ship in late 2018. Mr A.P. Karuppiah, Chairman of Tamil Nadu Banana Growers Federation, sees the beginning of a new era for Indian banana farmers.

“Previously, we did not know that we had to take care of the produce post-harvest as well. We were concentrating on producing more. Now we understand the use of post-harvest management techniques. This has enabled us to reduce losses as well as get better prices for our produce because of better quality. European markets were not known to us previously. However, this is only the beginning”.

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