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Cold Chain Technology:
« on: April 11, 2008, 11:50:50 AM »
Cold chain technology: A system for fresh, quality agricultural produce

by Ma. Eloisa E. Hernandez
 April-June 2007
Volume 9 Issue No. 2 


Philippines has been blessed with abundant graces of vegetables and fruits, fresh meat and fish.  But the production will come into ashes if we do not know how to handle them properly. Quality preservation, particularly, during transport and storage has always been a problem among farmers and traders.

The high value commercial crops (HVCC), in particular, can be a good source of income for the farmers.

In the northern part of the country, vegetables requiring cold temperature have shown great market value.  Among these vegetables are lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, mustard, parsleys, bell pepper, celery and carrots.  However, poor postharvest practices lead to the enormous postharvest losses that hindered agricultural productivity and profitability.

The Cordillera Region is the top vegetable producers in the country.  Manila, Southern Luzon, and Visayas markets usually acquire vegetables from the region.  Also, Mindanao particularly Davao City, Davao del Sur, Compostela Valley, Bukidnon, and Misamis Oriental, can be potential vegetable suppliers of high-end markets in Cebu and Manila.

The livestock industry also plays a vital role in the agriculture sector.  However, bringing these fresh and high quality vegetables and meat to consumers seems out of reach due to lack of proper and adequate facilities to retain the temperature level required to maintain their freshness.

Cold chain technology
The current situation has prompted the Department of Agriculture (DA), through the Bureau of Postharvest Research and Extension (BPRE) to implement “The Philippine National Cold Chain Program”.

This is in line with the modernization of agriculture as the national thrust of government under the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) of 1997.  The program is seen as one possible solution to address the major concerns of the agri-fishery products with perishable nature.

BPRE aims to share this technological breakthrough to many users including small farmers.  The program took off in the province of Benguet in 2004. With the evident benefits derived by farmer-users, this has been made as one of the priority programs of the DA.

The cold chain system refers to the uninterrupted refrigerated handling operation of high-value crops from the farm to the market. With the system, the required temperature level is attained and therefore keeping the quality of perishable crops and meat products at every chain.

The Philippine Cold Chain Program seeks “to address the need to promote and showcase the technology. It aims to establish pilot cold chain and integrate it in the marketing operations of the small vegetable farmers for a better competitive-market advantage.  It is expected that through this technology, postharvest losses are minimized and profitability of farmers is increased”.

Specifically, it aims to identify the traditional and alternative trade routes of high value crops, and provide assistance among HVCC growers and traders in the acquisition of cold chain infrastructures or facilities in the selected pilot areas of the program.  The program also promotes the cold chain technology for HVCC in the country through information support, training and extension.

Refrigeration or controlled atmosphere can extend the shelf life of vegetables further maintaining the freshness and quality of farm products. In the end, markets especially the consumers will have a fresh-pick of vegetables and fruits.

Major players
The facilities in a cold chain are composed of pre coolers, packing houses and cold storage rooms and trucks for transport.  Pre coolers are used to remove field heat rapidly right after harvest to acquire desired conditions.  Packing houses are essential to prepare the vegetables prior to releasing it to the market such as trimming and cleaning, sorting defective products, among others.  Cold storages maintain the required storage temperature of the vegetables for a high quality-produced. Refrigerated trucks/container vans collect the fresh produce from the cooler room/packing houses and transport them.

The cold chain system requires involvement of the players from the handling, storage and transport of the perishable products.  These include farmers, packers, and workers and staff.  Drivers, wholesalers and distribution centers, retailers, and the consumers compose the transport service.

Pilot trade routes
Four main pilot sites serve as traditional or alternative routes for marine, poultry, meat and tropical and temperate high value crops, from their production areas to high end markets mainly Metro Manila, Cebu City, and Davao City. Others include: 1) Mt. Province – Benguet – Manila Line; 2) Cagayan – Manila Line; 3) Visayas Inter-island Connections, and 4) Mindanao-Cebu-Manila Line.

Now, BPRE is extending and promoting the cold chain technology to the region through support from the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF).  To date, three cold chain facilities have been established in three major vegetable producing areas in the country: Benguet, Cebu, and Bukidnon.

The most recent addition to the system are: 1) La Trinidad Fruit and Vegetable Minimal Processing and Packaging Plant in La Trinidad, Benguet, 2) Cold Storgae facilities stationed at the Capaz Food Terminal and Live Animal Auction Center in Capaz, Tarlac, and 3) additional cold storage warehouse for KASAMNE in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija.

This article was based on the study, “Philippine National Cold Chain Program” produced and published by Bureau of Postharvest Research and Extension (BPRE) of the Department of Agriculture (DA), CLSU Compound, Science City Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, Philippines

Source:, “Improving Quality of Philippine Vegetables through Agricultural Tramline and Cold Chain Systems: Status, Prospects and Technology


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