The Logistics Business has recently been commissioned to analyse and develop fresh food supply chains in India by the State Governments of the major fruit and vegetable producing areas. Fresh food supply chains in the developed Western Countries are known to be fast, efficient and deliver good quality produce with little waste. In countries like India where there are far higher ambient temperatures, multiple handing of produce and high levels of waste, there would appear to be a lot to be gained by applying Western techniques and technologies. However, the differences in economics, culture and infrastructure need to be fully understood before any changes can be made to the supply chains. A brief comparison of a typical Western supply chain and an Indian supply chain highlights some of these differences:
Typical Western fresh food Supply Chains :
- a large proportion of produce is imported;
- as produce is imported from countries with different climates, consumption is not seasonal;
- imported food can be in transit for days or weeks, requiring chilled transport;
- produce is sourced from large farms or organisations;
- produce is typically handled once and put into protective packaging at the start of the supply chain;
- the retailer typically has visibility, control or ownership of the entire supply chain;
- the majority of retail outlets are supermarkets with associated facilities and overheads;
- consumers shop once or twice a week, requiring products with a reasonable shelf life;
- Western consumers will pay more for aesthetically pleasing produce of good quality
Typical Indian fresh food Supply Chains :
- practically all produce consumed is domestic;
- as a result of limited cold storage facilities most produce is seasonal;
- farms in India are small with Government acts restricting the land owned by a farmer;
- the supply chain is long, with produce going through aggregators, commission agents, traders and two or more markets before reaching the retailer;
- the produce is handled many times by the different parties;
- packaging is introduced later in the chain and often provides limited protection;
- the purchaser of produce only has visibility of the immediate vendor and not further up the supply chain;
- the vast majority or produce is retailed through independent fruit and vegetable sellers working from carts and barrows;
- these fruit and vegetable sellers are on most streets making it convenient to buy fruit and vegetables on a daily basis;
- fresh fruit and vegetables are the staples of the entire population and are relatively low in price
Although Indian fresh food supply chains are fragmented, the time taken to reach the retail outlets is relatively fast. There is typically no stock held in the chain and transport is on covered and open trucks and/or overnight trains. As all produce is grown domestically, it can be with the fruit and vegetable sellers in 3 or 4 days with consumption 1 or 2 days later.
If the produce ripens after harvest it is picked early and ripens during the transport period to the retail outlet. However, multiple handling, inadequate packaging, high temperatures and a fragmented supply chain create waste and impair the quality of produce.
There are clearly many areas that can benefit from the techniques and technologies used in the West, and there are pockets of the industry where these have been successfully introduced.
The purpose of the work undertaken by The Logistics Business was to identify the areas where the techniques, organisational structure and technologies can be implemented to improve the quality and reduce waste in the supply chains.