Cold chain body takes further steps to implement industry roadmap

The National Cold Chain Committee has made further progress in the implementation of the Philippine Cold Chain Industry Roadmap, with its technical working groups (TWGs) wrapping up their planning workshop recently, according to Board of Investments (BOI) Governor Marjorie Ramos-Samaniego.

Samaniego, who is the co-chairperson of the National Cold Chain Committee (NC3), said in a recent virtual update that the different TWGs held their national planning orkshop late last month to craft the priority actions and programs under the industry roadmap.

The TWGs are assigned to tackle the key areas of policy reforms, cold chain services, cold chain logistics, and food and drug safety education.

Samaniego said consultations were also conducted among the TWGs on the terms of reference during the workshop held on September 20 to 23, and “once everything is finalized, we are going to have a resolution done amongst the NC3 to have a continuity of the plan and the commitment to achieve the projects and programs that are proposed in the workshop.”

The BOI and the Department of Agriculture are co-chairs of the NC3, the multisectoral and multi-agency body convened last March to oversee and steer the implementation of the industry roadmap plans and projects.

The roadmap was launched by the BOI and its partner industry stakeholders on December 14, 2020 to develop the industry, seen as a crucial link to address food safety and food security concerns especially with the unprecedented challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Samaniego said it is vital to accelerate cold chain development to “support deeper linkage of local agricultural production with agro-processing and food manufacturing and facilitate expanded trading whether domestic or export.”

“This will also build the capacity of traditionally food insecure (underserved) areas to build on their food stocks, especially in times of disasters or pandemic. More importantly, cold chain is critical in the proper handling of vaccines to preserve their potency and efficacy.”

According to Mae Valdez, national policy coordinator of the Food Cold Chain project, there is currently an inadequate cold chain infrastructure in the country.

Cold chain facilities that are operating are mostly owned by big companies, malls, supermarkets and retail store chains, she said in her presentation at the same webinar.

She said studies show that industry challenges mainly lie on the type and structure of domestic regulations and on how these rules are enforced.

She added that the enforcement of regulations is relatively inefficient because of inadequate staffing on the side of the regulator, lack of proper and effective communication and consultation mechanisms between regulators and regulated entities, and inadequate understanding and appreciation of regulatory intent and inconsistent application of regulations.

Valdez also highlighted the benefits of a strong cold chain industry, including linking agricultural products of smallholder farmers in rural areas to a wider market. Cold chains also help to stem food loss and create a buffer stock in times of crises and disasters.

According to Samaniego, the industry roadmap is taking the “Go-5 Synergy” approach, outlining five goals, five objectives, five focus industries, and five action agenda to be pursued, accomplished or developed over the next five years to guide the industry to adapt to the new normal.

The roadmap’s mission is to establish a collaborative network of cold chain stakeholders that will cater to both food and non-food industries, as the industry is expected to handle the increasing needs of businesses striving to be competitive and provide the requirements of a growing population.

Samaniego identified the focus industries as meat/processed meat, fisheries and aquaculture, dairy, fruits and vegetables, and non-food products such as pharmaceuticals and electronics.

Meanwhile, Anthony Dizon, president of the Cold Chain Association of the Philippines, Inc. (CCAP) suggested what actions may be undertaken to increase investments in cold chain facilities and cold chain logistics services. The CCAP is vice chair of the NC3.

To attract investments in cold chain facilities, Dizon said there is a need to identify the locations or places that can benefit from cold chain to enable products to be distributed in these areas and encourage the backward integration of production/processing capabilities.

There is also a need to establish an investment climate conducive to foreign investments in order to spur technology transfer and open new markets. Moreover, Dizon stressed the importance of support from national agencies in addressing investment constraints, recommending relaxing the rules on land use, ensuring reliable power supply in investment areas, and supporting ease of doing business.

Local government units should also look at incentives that will encourage investments in their areas while also making sure they practice ease of doing business tenets, he added.

To promote investments in cold chain logistics services, Dizon said better road infrastructure networks and marine transportation facilities have to be developed to allow for the transport of goods from source to consumption centers.

It is also necessary to address investors’ concerns with the cost of operating cold chain logistics services, particularly fuel costs and the required passage fees collected at ports and by LGUs.

He also recommended enhancing and streamlining franchising procedures for cold chain logistics services.

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