Decoding the Food Supply Chain In India

Published
, 11 minute read

Quick summary: In order to have a global presence, India’s food supply chain needs to be agile, adaptive, and efficient. Digitization of the food supply chain is inevitable to optimize supply chains. Streamlining of processes, improvements in cold chain infrastructure, and complying with regulatory standards should be able to redefine supply chain management.

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The food we eat travels a long complex journey before it reaches our plates. Traversing through the farms, processors, distribution and finally the supermarket shelves, the food goes through a number of stages in the food supply chain. Do we know what goes behind the scenes in this long journey? The food supply chain is opaque, and uncertainties lurk in every corner of the network. In this blog post, let us decode the food supply chain covering the challenges, the  revolution that is happening , what are the initiatives taken by the Government and the associated standards available along with the public and private sector approach . 

Over the past two decades, there has been rapid growth in the food sector in India. Food production and processing are developing in tandem with the growth in the capital-output ratio. India establishes itself second in worldwide farm exports and first in the net cropped area followed by US and China.  

India’s agricultural and processed foods are exported to the broadest ranging 120 countries. India’s agriculture commodities export alone accounted for 3.50 billion US dollars in March-June 2020.

India is the second-largest producer of fruits and vegetables and milk, fifth-largest producer of eggs, and sixth largest producer of fish. The fragmented supply chain along with the lack of adequate cold chain infrastructure leads to inefficiency and losses in the supply chain. 

Challenges of the Food Supply Chain 

Up to 45% of food produced gets spoilt in the supply chain. 

Only a mere 7% of perishable foods are being processed.  

The Associated Chambers of Commerce estimates that post-harvest losses cost the country about $14 billion a year.

In order to have a global presence, India’s food supply chain needs to be agile, adaptive, and efficient. However, there are a number of challenges in this complex network with perishable food and a number of small stakeholders with weak links between them. Supply chain inefficiencies have disrupted the food sector. 

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  • Intermediaries: With no proper link between players in the supply chain, and with the presence of intermediaries there is mistrust and this lowers product quality 
  • Standards: The absence of regulative authorities in small and medium organizations might result in less quality and unsafe products. 
  • No Demand- Supply drivers: Consumer and consumer behavior is continuously changing. Also, the supply chain is fragmented and it results in an uneven volume demand-supply pattern 
  • Subsidized pricing: The pricing decision of a product will vary if subsidies or reverse charge applies to a product. The involvement of third-party vendors results in price increases. 
  • Improper packing and manual handling: Quality, safety, and hygiene are being compromised by unconventional packing and human errors.    
  • Lack of Organized logistics: The poor infrastructure and lack of cold chain infrastructure results in delays and wastage.
  • Lack of adoption of Technology: End to end supply chain visibility and optimization are missing 

An efficient Food Supply Chain Ecosystem overcomes these challenges. A basic supply chain ecosystem includes resources, supporting institutions, delivery and infrastructure, and supply chain integration.

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  • Resources: India is widespread and geographically well located, proper sunlight and optimal climate change over the area are best suitable for agriculture, therefore India has 51% cultivatable land, 46 soil types, and 20 agro climate regions. 
  • Institutions: The government has taken action regarding the regulation of markets and the marketplace. APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) has a marketplace in every state which is regulated and managed by the government. 
  • Delivery and Infrastructure: With growing consumer demand and vast markets, the safety and hygiene of products are important. Information management systems, multi-model transportations, and cold storage are some of the ways to manage transportation effectively. 
  • Supply chain Integration: Supply chain is the path that a product takes from sourcing raw material to reaching the final consumer. It involves all activities like production, processing, transportation, and delivery. There should be perfect coordination among the players in the supply chain. 

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The Revolution in Food Supply Chains in India 

There has been a rapid transformation in the food market in India. Retail sales are growing at 49% annually, penetrating both urban and rural markets. The food processing industry is also growing fast to meet the demands of consumers in the urban market. Improvements and advances in the logistics sector have also seen the emergence of wholesale markets. 

This revolution has been primarily driven by factors like technology advancements, consumer behaviour and government policies. The development of new digital platforms connecting the farmers with consumers have allowed farmers to sell their produce online, eliminating middlemen ad reducing cost of distribution. 

There has been also a growing demand of quality and  nutritious food from the consumers. Conscious consumerism is on the rise with consumers willing to pay more for organic and sustainably produced food. This has led to the growth of new markets for the producers. 

Government policies has also played a role in transformation of India’s food supply chain. The initiatives include sustainable agriculture practices, establishment of cold storage facilities and promotion of Farmer Producer organizations(What are Farmer Producer Organizations?  

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Food Processing Industry and the Retail Sector

100 % FDI is allowed in the food processing sector and incentives are offered to set up processing plants in Agri-Export zones or outside them.

A strong retail market should provide the necessary fillip to the agriculture and processing industry. 

Initiatives by the Government of India in the food supply chain. 

India’s food processing sector is one of the largest in the world and such big sectors would need major support from the government.

The Indian Government has been formulating policies and measures regarding the same. Some of the few are as follows, 

These are a few of the initiatives: 

  • National Mission on Food Processing (NMFP) launched by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MOFPI) focuses on working with state and district levels for the national mission relating to planning, monitoring, regulating their policies. 
  • Relaxation of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) norms for the sector along with 100% FDI in the marketing of food products and food products through e-commerce automatic route. 
  • Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) is a  crop insurance scheme that aims to provide financial support to farmers in the event of crop failures due to natural calamities, pests and  diseases. It also encourages sustainable agriculture practices. 
  • National Agriculture market (eNAM) is an online trading platform that connects farmers, traders and buyers across the country. The platform aims to provide farmers with better access and reduce intermediaries. 
  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is working on investing in setting up food testing infrastructure across the country. 62 new mobile testing labs are to be installed along with an upgrade of 52 testing laboratories. 
  • The Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MOFPI) has come up with Human Resource Development (HRD) implemented through state government which focuses on creating infrastructures for training, degree and diploma courses, and entrepreneurship development programs.  
  • PM Kisan Sampada Yojana aims at promoting entrepreneurs in incorporating food processing units closer to agricultural lands. It also helps in setting up and developing of warehouse, packing, storage and transportation. 

There are many more schemes like Operation Green, PM Formalization of Micro Food processing Enterprises (PMFME), Production-linked incentive (PLI) 

Need for standards 

Standardization is a powerful tool in achieving Supply Chain efficiency. 

Interoperability of systems and compatibility to standards help supply chain partners to increase production efficiency and reduce costs.

There are standards related to both food safety and logistics and IT systems. Compliance with international food standards is mandatory in the global food market.

The food industry across the world is fragile. India is no different, with huge markets and volumes in production it becomes difficult to maintain standards of quality and hygiene, hence many regulatory bodies monitor exports and imports in India. One such is the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA)

APEDA manages export promotion and development of 14 agricultural and processed food products listed in its schedule. It has set up 5 regional offices in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Guwhati, and Mumbai and 13 virtual offices across the country. Helps in developing markets and infrastructure, promotes quality in exports, financial support, and transport assistance. 

  • Registration of persons as export of scheduled products. 
  • Fixing standards and specifications of exports under scheduled products. 
  • Conducting surveys and studies with interaction with exporters of scheduled products to formulate new policies.
  • Inspection of the organization and its processes for quality and hygiene. 
  • Help in marketing scheduled products outside of India. 
  • Help in packing, transportation and development of scheduled products. 
  • Industrial training and development facilities for the export of scheduled products. 

Public and Private sector in the Food Supply Chain 

Globalization in the food industry has forced players in the organization to move into the production of non-traditional agricultural products to diversify and increase foreign exchange. India has a certain geographical advantage in terms of producing certain fruits and vegetables which have high value in the export market. Food safety has become the topmost priority. With an increase in demand for safer products, protocols regarding packing, operating, traceability, pesticide use, technology measuring contamination have also increased. 

Demand in volume increases the need for private and public sectors to work together. An efficient supply chain would require both these players to adhere to their roles precisely.  

  • Technical support: The public sector should ensure that knowledge specialized in technical support of farming processes should be transferred to the private sector. Services and new technological details have to be accessed by the private sector. 
  • Data support: Details of the flow of products through the supply chain are given to the private sector. Information like the type of product, price variation, demand, and production are exchanged. It is better to rely on public sector data rather than market information 
  • Infrastructure support: Timely delivery and smooth flow of products depend on public infrastructures like roads, public distribution, etc, and private infrastructures like, logistics, warehouse management, and processing. 
  • Standards and certification: Export regulations are stringent and credibility has to be maintained. Public sectors provide grades, standards, and certification on products that help in the development and global reach. 
  • Coordination contracts: Enables quality in products and manages competition in the marketplace through developing agreements with the private sector.

The Way ahead 

India has the cultivable land, the seasons needed for the production of fruits and vegetables, and a well-developed agri-business system. The gap that exists is between the farm and the consumer level and the road it travels through passing different hands, decreasing the food quality and increasing the costs and wastages.  

In order to make India the food basket of the world, there is a necessity for technological intervention. Digitization of the food supply chain is inevitable to optimize supply chains. Streamlining of processes, improvements in cold chain infrastructure, complying with regulatory standards should be able to redefine supply chain management.

The use of technology is crucial in shaping food markets as it increases productivity and diversity of agriculture products. This results in reduced food waste. Regions with weak markets are at a disadvantage as they depend on a few food varieties whose yields can be affected by climate changes, leading to food insecurity. Large retailers have the resources to adopt advanced technologies, improve productivity and reduce costs. Digitization of food supply chain benefits all the stakeholders in the supply chain. 

TraceX’s end to end blockchain traceability solutions enables supply chain transparency and management, thereby building a robust food supply chain.  Leveraging the blockchain technology, the product helps to bring in tracking of sustainable practices with efficient farm and crop management. It also drives supply chain optimization and stakeholder collaboration. This builds trust in the ecosystem and ensures the  end consumer a safe and a healthy product. 

Conclusion 

The food supply chain needs to be looked from an holistic angle to understand the system better and identify potential areas of improvement. Decoding the food supply chain improves the visibility , increases efficiency, reduces costs and builds resilience in the  event of disruptions. It enables companies to understand their operations and plan for future strategies and actions. 

As India’s food supply chain continues to evolve and improve, it is important that they are sustainable and socially equitable, benefitting all the stakeholders in the network. 

Blockchain-powered traceability solutions provide the necessary edge in building robust and resilient supply chains. 

Read how Traceability is transforming Agriculture and Food Supply Chains. 

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