Bananas Ship on Cooled Ingersoll Trucks as India Works to Limit Food Waste

Enlarge image

Bananas in Cooled Ingersoll Trucks Help Tackle Food Waste

Deshakalyan Chowdhury/AFP/Getty Images

India produced 26.3 million tons of bananas in 2008, of which 0.1 percent was sold overseas, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

India produced 26.3 million tons of bananas in 2008, of which 0.1 percent was sold overseas, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. Photographer: Deshakalyan Chowdhury/AFP/Getty Images

About a third of Ayannan
Karuppaiah’s 75-ton banana crop used to rot before it reached
the market about 300 miles (480 kilometers) away in Chennai,
India. Now, his fruit is eaten in the Middle East.

Karuppaiah transformed his business after buying a
refrigerated truck from Ingersoll-Rand Plc (IR) two years ago. The
vehicle, modified to handle narrow roads and temperatures that
can reach about 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit),
enabled Karuppaiah to get his bananas blemish-free to Bangalore
and Chennai, where he sells them wholesale for export to the
United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

“It used to be awful seeing all of my hard work just rot
away,” said Karuppaiah, 51, who’s bought five more trucks
since. “Now, I’ve paid for my daughter’s wedding and put my son
through college.”

Ingersoll, United Technologies Corp. (UTX)’s Carrier and shipping
line AP Moeller-Maersk A/S are among companies promoting cold-
chain technologies in India, where about 300 billion rupees
($6.6 billion) of food is lost each year because of a lack of
chillers and poor infrastructure. That push is helping local
— the world’s biggest growers of bananas, mangoes,
papayas, lemons and limes — sell more goods at home and abroad.

“Reducing waste can directly translate into income for
farmers and lower prices for consumers,” said Sankalpa
Bhattacharjya, a senior director at KPMG in Guragon, India. “It
will have a long-lasting impact by lowering food inflation.”

An index measuring Indian wholesale prices for agricultural
products jumped 9.9 percent in the week ended July 30 from a
year earlier, according to the Department of Commerce.

0.1 Percent Exports

India produced 26.3 million tons of bananas in 2008, of
which 0.1 percent was sold overseas, according to the United
Food and Agriculture Organization. Ecuador, the biggest
exporter of bananas, sold 79 percent of its 6.7 million-ton crop
abroad that year, the latest for which figures are available on
the organization’s website.

As much as 40 percent of India’s banana crop is lost to
wastage, according to KPMG’s Bhattacharjya. That would equal
10.5 million tons based on the 2008 data, more than the total
crop in the Philippines, the world’s second-biggest producer.

Cold-Chain Investments

India is investing to pare food waste, setting aside 78.1
billion rupees in the year started April for states to spend on
cold storage and other farming infrastructure. That support,
coupled with private loans, helped a 600-member cooperative in
Karuppaiah’s home village in Tamil Nadu state build a
refrigerated facility that can hold 160 metric tons (176 tons).

“We now have the power to bargain for a better price for
our produce,” said Karuppaiah, who slashed waste at his own
farm to near zero even after adding more land and boosting
annual production 20-fold to 1,500 tons.

Cold-chain investments may also help India become a major
exporter of other crops, including apples and strawberries,
Bhattacharjya said.

Demand for chillers helped Swords, Ireland-based Ingersoll
boost sales in India 27 percent last year, according to a
company presentation. China sales grew 24 percent. The company
expects emerging-market revenue to grow at more than double the
pace of the local economies, Chief Financial Officer Steven Shawley said in a June 17 conference call.

Smaller Chillers

To win sales in India, Ingersoll has developed Thermo King
refrigeration units that are narrower and less power-hungry so
they can fit onto local trucks, said M.S. Manjunath, head of its
cold-chain business in the country.

Ingersoll-Rand India Ltd. (INGR), the company’s Bangalore-based
unit, gained 0.2 percent to 465 rupees at 10:23 a.m. in Mumbai
trading after rising as much as 2.8 percent. The Bombay Stock
Exchange benchmark Sensitive Index rose 0.8 percent. The unit
expects to become a $500 million enterprise by 2012, helped by
investment plans totaling about $100 million, Chairman and
President Venkatesh Valluri said.

Gujarat Fluorochemicals Ltd., a maker of refrigerant gases,
gained 8.7 percent to 486.1 rupees. The shares rose as much as
13.5 percent, the most since Dec. 2, 2010.

United Technologies’ Carrier, the world’s largest provider
of temperature-control products, has introduced small chiller
units that can be powered by vehicle engines rather than using a
separate generator, said Pankaj Mehta, assistant director at the
local unit of Carrier Transicold. The company also intends to
start selling refrigerated railroad cars during the next few
years as India builds new lines, he said.

Banana Containers

Copenhagen-based Maersk, the world’s largest container
line, has introduced cargo boxes that keep bananas fresh for up
to 50 days by controlling oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen
levels as well as temperature and humidity, according to its

The technology enables Indian banana farmers to send their
goods as far as the Baltic Sea region, said Rizwan Soomar,
managing director at Maersk Line (India Sri Lanka). He didn’t
comment on how many bananas the line was carrying from India.
The containers also have been used for avocados, he said.

The Maersk system helped Navsari, western India-based Desai
Fruits Vegetables ship 2,000 containers of bananas to the
Middle East in the year ended March 31, Desai Chief Executive
Officer Bjoern Witte said. The company’s wastage levels are
about 2 percent for bananas, he said.

Desai is now looking to send bananas to eastern Europe and
Ukraine as part of a push to boost exports fivefold by 2015, he

Export Target

“We are growing strongly,” Witte said. “The fundamentals
are tremendously promising for exports.”

India plans to double total exports by the year ending
March 2014 from $246 billion last fiscal year, according to a
Department of Commerce plan. Still, infrastructure remains a

A lack of port capacity can lead to congestion and delays,
hobbling volumes. The nation’s 13 biggest state-run harbors
missed a government target of handling 581.3 million tons of
cargo last fiscal year by 3.5 percent.

India plans to spend $1 trillion on new roads, airports,
urban rail and power networks in the five years through 2017 to
boost trade and growth.

“Technology has enabled even people in villages to earn
foreign exchange,” said M.M. Mustaffa, director of the
government-backed National Research Centre for Banana in the
southern Indian city of Tiruchirapalli.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Karthikeyan Sundaram in New Delhi at

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Neil Denslow at

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.