Leveraging the power of sustainable cold chains to safeguard food security Leveraging the power of sustainable cold chains to safeguard food security
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Leveraging the power of sustainable cold chains to safeguard food security

Leveraging the power of sustainable cold chains to safeguard food security

According to recent research, approximately one third of the food produced is getting wasted which puts pressure on consumers to change their behaviour

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Food producers today are faced with a severe challenge of reducing food spoilage before it can be consumed or even before it reaches consumers. Covid-19 and its associated economic downturn has aggravated the stability of our global food system. According to recent research, approximately one third of the food produced is getting wasted which puts pressure on consumers to change their behaviour. On the other hand, close to 14 per cent of the total food is getting lost before it even reaches retail stores.

Food loss is generated across the different stages of the value chain, including transportation and storage, as well as packaging. Cold chains, or the activities undertaken to ensure that perishable food products are kept at an optimum temperature in the supply chain that stretches from freshly harvested products to the end consumer, are of crucial importance to the reduction of food wastage. A full-length cold chain comprises all aspects of post-production storage at all scales – from farm to fork.

In contrast to developed countries where advanced cold-chain solutions are common, developing and emerging countries still lack the widespread deployment of high-quality, integrated cold chains for the ideal distribution of perishable foods.

While in GCC, cold chain is considered advanced compared to other developing nations, however high ambient conditions and large percentage of food imported, it makes it more challenging to avoid food loss and maintain quality. The importance of a full-length cold chain increases with distances and time passed between production and consumption: so how can the thriving UAE cold chain market, supported by the increasing adoption of technology and automation, safeguard the future of food security?

To effectively contribute to a significant decrease in food wastage and maintain food quality, a deep understanding of the local value chain is needed, in addition to the intricacies of the target market. For a cold chain intervention to result in measurable results, and achieve social and economic benefits, it must be in sync with existing cold storage infrastructure.

While the cold chain market in UAE is at growth stage, it has increased at a positive compound annual growth rate of 5.0 per cent between 2015 and 2020, largely due to heavy government and direct foreign investments in transportation and storage infrastructure. Furthermore, investment is expected to grow in coming years in the field of refrigeration in view of food security and maintaining highest food standard for growing population.

UAE experts must also focus on improving and expanding the cold chain without adding to the climate crisis. Conventional cold chain technologies are energy intensive and harm our climate, and so the urgent challenge lies in delivering social and economic wins by expanding cold-chain capacity quickly and affordably, while ensuring minimal pollution and adverse environmental effects. While a resilient, highly efficient network of temperature-controlled pre-conditioning, packhouses, vehicles and containers helps reduce CO2 emissions related to food loss, the deployment of a sustainable cold-chain system is needed to reduce emissions from the cold chain itself.

Together, stakeholders and experts must allocate the right resources to increase investments in research, ensure that the best, most energy-efficient, sustainable technologies are used, accelerate the digital monitoring of cold chains, and create training programmes to boost skills across the workforce.

Food waste burdens waste management systems, increases food insecurity and is a major contributor to the global climate change problem, biodiversity loss and pollution. By leveraging the power of modernised, robust cold chains, the world can preserve perishable food, reducing wastage and extending supplies to tackle food insecurity and contribute to the UAE’s National Food Security Strategy 2051 – ensuring access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food all year round throughout the world .

Sanjeev Maheshwari is the general manager – After Sales and Refrigeration at Daikin Middle East and Africa

Read: Insights: Why food security is a pressing priority in the IMETA region

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