Transport, power costs critical to success of cold storage network

Transport, power costs critical to success of cold storage network

By Adrian H. Halili, Reporter

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) needs to address logistics and utility issues if its plan to set up a network of cold storage facilities is to succeed, according to analysts.

Monetary Board member V. Bruce J. Tolentino said there may be “infrastructure issues such as transport and electric power issues that need to be resolved first.”

“There may also be policy issues such as LGU (local government unit) permits, etc. that are constraining the speedy transport of goods,” Mr. Tolentino said in a Viber message.

At a Palace briefing on Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr., said the DA has allocated about P1 billion for the construction of four cold storage facilities this year.

The DA is planning to put up sites in Taguig, Quezon, Mindoro, and La Union or Baguio.

He added that an additional P5 billion is needed to build more facilities elsewhere in the country.

On Monday, the DA said the network will stockpile high-value crops and vegetables and smooth out periods of shortage or oversupply.

Former Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the vegetable industry has not been receiving significant funding in recent years.

“Financial resources will be needed to up the game in terms of boosting productivity (and) sustaining fresh supplies, (enabling) affordable prices year-round,” Mr. Dar said in a text message.

The first facility to be constructed will rise on a 1.3-hectare site at the Food Terminal, Inc. complex In Taguig City at a cost of about P500 million.

The DA said cold storage will reduce post-harvest losses and allow commodities to be stored during periods of oversupply, allowing farmers to generate revenue from their harvests regardless of supply conditions.

Mr. Dar said the facilities will also maintain the quality of produce, raising the likelihood of farmers getting good prices.

“Spoilage will be minimized, and prices can be stabilized. Hoarding as well can be (reduced) if not eradicated,” he added.

Mr. Tolentino said that there is a need to undertake a thorough assessment of the economic and financial feasibility of constructing more cold storage facilities.

“This assessment must include in-depth consultation with private sector players to find out why these private players have not invested in cold storage facilities themselves,” he added.

Mr. Laurel concurred that the government has failed to invest in major post-harvest facilities in decades.

“No major post-harvest facility has been funded by the government in the last 40 years. Puro mga tingi-tingi (the facilities have been retail in scale) which are irrelevant or useless… we cannot build small; we need to build big,” he said.

Raul Q. Montemayor, Federation of Free Farmers national manager, said that keeping products within cold storage facilities will mean expenses for farmers, who, “must be linked to as many markets as possible, electronically if possible, so that they can dispose of their products at the soonest possible time.”

Mr. Montemayor added that product standards need to be developed and applied to assure quality produce for consumers.

“Logistical support for transport will be essential so that products are delivered promptly to buyers,” he said.