Did you know that India is one of the world’s top producers and exporters of perishable cargo? That’s cargo made up of fruits, vegetables, flowers and livestock products. And the amount being exported grows annually at a steady rate. Fruits such as bananas and lichies are grown in a number of different Indian states and are exported around the world, including the Middle East, Europe and Russia.
The Indian government has adopted policies that are friendly to meat and poultry exporters. In one year, poultry exports doubled and buffalo meat exports showed a 45 percent gain. As a matter of fact, the popularity of Indian buffalo meat has skyrocketed due to its lean character and favorable pricing. The explosion of meat exports means that India must now very stringently monitor the quality of exported meat to ensure it is wholesome and sanitary.
Flower exports are also very lucrative. It is not unlikely that a grieving family in Cambodia or Laos may receive sympathy flowers that were grown in India.
Indian Railways participates in the exports of perishables in a couple of different ways. First, there is the refrigerated rolling stock that can transport perishable items to neighboring countries quickly and efficiently. Then, there is a task-force initiative that has been put forward to help create cold-storage facilities and temperature-controlled perishable cargo centers. The task force contains representatives from various government ministries, Indian Railways, the Container Corporation of India, the Central Warehousing Corporation and smaller cold chain operators. The task force has laid out plans to establish perishable cargo centers at a few pilot locations. In the long term, one envisions an efficient network of cold centers optimized for trans-shipment of perishables by rail throughout India.
Of course, cold cargo makes unique demands on a railway. Special refrigeration cars are very expensive and require special maintenance procedures. They must be kept very clean without the need for rust removers, and all refrigeration parts must be constantly inspected to ensure reliability. The last thing a transport company wants is a refrigeration failure that can lead to the spoilage of hundreds of thousands of dollars of perishables. For that reason, cold cargo centers sport backup generators just in case of a power failure. The added expense of buying and maintaining auxiliary generators is partially offset by lowered insurance premiums on policies that protect customers and shippers from refrigeration failures. India anticipates a bright future for the perishable cargo market, and the Indian Railways is taking steps to ensure its place in that future.