1. Cold storage capacity has increased year on year, however, there is a lack of modern storage facilities that hold back the industry’s extreme growth.
The cold storage sector in India is driven by the increase in international trade because of liberalization in trade. Also, with the push by the government via various incentive-led schemes and recommendations of NCCD (2015), the number of cold storage units increased dynamically in August 2020. Although the highest number of units are concentrated in Uttar Pradesh, the top 5 states contribute >75% to total Indian capacity. This highlights the focus to ensure a well-distributed mechanism in India. Moreover, more than 80% of units are decades old in nature and lack modern techniques for storing more commodities, temperature control methods, etc. which inhibits the growth of the cold storage industry.
2. Inadequate capacity for multi-storage, high Opex, long gestation period & small unorganized players are some of the other pain points of this industry.
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While the cold storage capacity has increased at a CAGR of ~4.8% during 2010-20, it is still behind the capacity of New Zealand, the USA, and Great Britain in terms of availability per urban resident in cubic meters. There can be many reasons for it. One of them is the inadequate capacity for multi-storage. Around 68% of its capacity is suitable for potato storage only which makes it an economically not so-viable option in bumper years of production.
Also, only 20% of revenues of the cold chain sector are generated from Potato while the multi-purpose sector increases the capacity utilization rate and contributes 54% to total revenue. Moreover, the presence of small independent private players has restricted the growth of the industry as these players do not possess the required monetary backing for undertaking capacity expansion, technological advancements across cold chains, procuring reefer trucks, setting up mobile units, etc. Also, the low availability of skilled staff at economically viable rates increases the Opex.
3. Opening up of the sector and technological push is gearing up for unleashing the potential of the cold storage market in India.
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Despite having challenges, the industry is expected to grow in the future as multiple factors are working together to boost growth. One of them is the surge in the adoption of CA Technology. Cold storage operators with sound capacity & sizeable operations expressed willingness to upgrade their cold storage rooms with Controlled Atmosphere technology. Given the inherent benefits of technology, cold storage operators are looking to diversify clientele to export partners; fetching higher returns than normal market prices.
In addition to this, in 2020, Mumbai airport became the world’s largest airport-based temperature-controlled facility with a capacity of stock holding up to 700 tonnes at a time. Railways of India has been undertaking multiple steps via CONCOR & subsidiaries to establish/ operate cold storage units in various states. Entry of new players, increase in contract farming, and backward integration are some of the other trends and development in the industry.