According to the latest FAO report, in the world 3 billion people are unable to afford a healthy diet and 811 million are currently hungry: an increase of 112 million from 2019, caused by the economic impact of the Covid pandemic that drove up inflation. 

Food security is now being threatened by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, which has triggered the prices of basic grains. In this scenario, the estimated 14% of all food produced for human consumption that gets lost before it reaches the consumer is a worrying figure that needs to be addressed promptly.

One of the major contributors to food loss is the lack of an effective cold chain that can preserve the quality and safety of food. If we change perspective, the time is right to treat what has been perceived as a problem so far, as an area of focus in order to take action and actually address these issues. The figures currently available are rather promising. 

According to The Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA), the world’s refrigerated warehouse capacity grew 16.7 per cent between 2018 and 2020 to 719 million cubic meters while industrial refrigeration and transport refrigeration are estimated to experience the fastest growth within the cooling sector globally, with average annual growth rates of 5.1 per cent and 4.8 per cent, respectively, in the years 2018-2030.

Yet this growth is distributed unevenly – mainly in North America and China – and many developing countries still need significant additional capacity to meet the target of saving about 144 million tons of food every year by implementing the same level of food cold chain infrastructure as developed countries. Pilot projects – like the one run in India, that reduces emissions and losses of kiwi fruit by 76% thanks to the increased use of refrigerated transport – show that sustainable food cold chains are already making a difference. The point is: will this new approach become the norm, rather than being an exception?
In order to overcome the barriers that still prevent the expansion of sustainable food cold chains globally, FAO issued a series of recommendations for governments and stakeholders which are mainly based on integration and collaboration. A new holistic approach to food cold chain provision, based on the knowledge that supplying cooling technologies alone is not sufficient, is now extremely necessary. At the same time, legislation and standards need to be globally aligned with the fast development of new technologies.

Financial incentives are also required, especially in those developing countries where small-scale farmers cannot afford the high initial capital costs. Overall, it is crucial to take a localized approach to address current and future food cold chain requirements in an effective, sustainable manner.

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