Supply Chain Challenges in Fruits and Vegetable Sector

Tamil Selvi, Hyderabad

Fruits and Vegetables are rich source of vitamins, minerals, protein and carbohydrates, which are essential nutrients for human health. Supply chain plays a vital role to meet their demand in the market and at the same time ensuring supply of good quality of fruits and vegetables. 

Since, most of these are perishable in nature, they need to be properly handled, transported, stored and treated to reduce seasonal wastage and post-harvest wastage. Consumers are becoming aware and conscious about produce selection. Hence, it is important to maintain the freshness of the fruits and vegetable till it reaches the customer.\

Supply chain management is defined as the design and operation of physical, management information and financial systems, needed to transfer goods and services from point of production to point of consumption in an efficient and effective manner.

The supply chain for fruits and vegetables is complex owing to their perishable nature. Moreover, it becomes further tricky due to high fluctuations in demand and price. The supply chain consists of various intermediaries who handle the produce as it moves from the farm gate to consumers: farmers, local traders, transporters, processors, retailors etc. The entire supply chain of F&V is laden with the major issue of post-harvest losses and wastages due to various factors. 

The key challenges in delivering fresh fruits and vegetables are:

  • Lack of proper infrastructural facilities
  • Unavailability of adequate cold storage
  • High cost and quality of packaging material
  • Low level of technology intervention in order to minimise costs
  • Lack of proper linkage between the farmers and the processing units
  • Lack of seamless information flow to the farmers on prices, product flow and demand in the market
  • Increase in consumer expectations with minimal compromise on quality
  • Rising labour wages
  • Increase in cost of logistics/ transportation – fuel prices
  • Time taken by products to reach the market
  • Maintenance cost for warehouse, refrigerated trucks /vans
  • Wastage cost – stocking perishable
  • Operation Cost – Procuring from suppliers and farmers, quality check, storage, inventory planning

Challenges from Retailers point of view: 

  • Consistency in supplying fresh F&V
  • Good Quality of the produce
  • Timely supply

Challenges from farmers point of view:

  • Good market price for the farm products
  • Regularity inbuying
  • On time pickup of produces
  • Good Infrastructure for transportation

There is a need to develop efficient supply chain models which may play an important role in increasing the shelf life of F&V. This will help to reduce wastage and improve the livelihood of the farmers as well as the quality will be maintained for customer. Even though there is an adequate production of many fruits and vegetables, still a huge gap exists between per capita demand and supply due to enormous wastage in supply chain. Hence, supply chain management in fruits and vegetables has to be improved, across the chain, by adopting best global practices in storage, packaging, handling, transportation and value added service to meet the demand of fruits and vegetables. 

Fruits and vegetables wastages can be minimized by preventing post-harvest losses- through Primary and Secondary Processing. Processing and Value addition improves the viability, profitability and sustainability of fruit and vegetables thereby increasing farm income and generating rural employment. 

Consumers prefer minimal processing technologies, specialized packaging and natural preservation systems while conserving fruits and vegetables. Infrastructure, cold storage and processing centres can also be established to improve farmers’ net realisation. 

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