90 trains for low-cost transportation of vegetables,fruits

In a bid to curb nationwide wastage of horticulture produce,thanks to the existing shortcomings in supply chains,a set of specially designed high-speed

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi | Published:February 16, 2012 3:17 am

In a bid to curb nationwide wastage of horticulture produce,thanks to the existing shortcomings in supply chains,a set of specially designed high-speed,low-cost trains have been launched that significantly reduce the time and price of transporting fruits and vegetables across the country.

Carried in special cargo containers,fruits and vegetables will no longer need refrigeration in transit,thereby helping in lowering the carriage cost. With the produce remaining fresh on delivery,officials expect the quality available in markets would improve.

Launched this month,the 90 special “insulated-ventilated” containers,manufactured exclusively for green produce,do not allow the formation of gases inside the cargo and protect it from outside temperatures — two banes that have always resulted in large-scale withering of vegetables and fruits on way from farms to markets.

Container Corporation of India (CONCOR) in a joint venture with the National Horticulture Board has designed and manufactured the 98 containers — 90 deployed while eight in spare — which come with special ventilation ducts and airtight insulation. The design has been approved by the government-run Central Institute of Post-Harvest Engineering and Technology.

CONCOR has put in Rs 16 crore in the maiden project with 50 per cent funding from the National Horticulture Board. Officials said the Rs 8 crore paid by the Board will be passed on to the end users — farmers and resellers — through lower tariff on these trains.

“Since refrigeration adds to the cost of fruits and vegetables but does not eliminate the problem of wastage,we wanted a new technology that takes care of both. Instead of waiting for the Railways to lower the freight charges,we are able to pass on lower tariffs to farmers,which will surely lower prices in markets as well,” said Bijay Kumar,MD of the Board.

With a designed speed of 100 km per hour on a dedicated route allotted by the Railways,the maiden carriage brought a train full of bananas from Maharashtra’s Bhusawal to Delhi’s Azadpur market in 30 hours,whereas the usual time has always been three days or more. Upon inspection the condition of the bananas — usually prone to wastage in transit — were found to be in the same condition as they were when packed at the farm. The next journey is with potatoes to be taken from Agra to Mumbai.

Government estimates peg the nationwide wastage of fruits and vegetables at farms and cold storages at between 30 and 40 per cent,fuelling rise in the prices of these items.

Security upgrade at 76 stations

The Railways will upgrade security at 76 stations by next month as part of an Integrated Security System programme. The upgrade includes installing CCTV surveillance system and erecting boundary wall along with barbed fencing around stations. There will also be multiple screening of passengers at entry points. ENS

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