Developing the cold chain in developing countries’ aquaculture sector is a key to reducing food loss

30 November, 2023

An article by Alejandro Tiana, Incatema consultant specialising in fisheries and aquaculture.

World Aquaculture Day is celebrated every 30th November. Aquaculture is an essential activity to feed a growing world population, as it complements the supply of aquatic foodstuffs that extractive fisheries cannot cover. As advocated by FAO, this sector’s decisive importance at a global level for food security must go hand in hand with sustainable growth, based on the 'blue transformation', where technological innovation plays a fundamental role, among other pillars.

Among the objectives of this blue transformation, we find the improvement of the aquatic food value chain, and this is particularly important in emerging countries, especially with regard to fish preservation after harvesting at the end of its life cycle, in order to reduce post-harvest losses and food waste.

The main obstacles for fisheries and aquaculture in these countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, are limited human and financial resources, which hinder technological investment needed for the aquaculture value chains to develop and minimise food losses and waste.

In Africa, fisheries and aquaculture production losses are mainly due to the lack of infrastructure for proper fish handling, preservation and transport once caught. Difficulties in accessing electricity and drinking water are a barrier to the efficient development of the value chain for the effective reduction of post-harvest losses.

The underdevelopment of the cold chain in African countries is, according to the FAO, the main cause of fish loss, a serious threat to food security given the essential role that fish plays in contributing to total animal protein intake in this region.

On the other hand, blue transformation in Africa requires urgent climate change adaptation measures, and the aquaculture sector cannot be left behind.

At Incatema, aware of all this, we are developing a project in Cameroon for MAVECAM group in which we have studied the feasibility of expanding its aquaculture activities, bearing in mind the adaptation to climate change and the need to improve the cold chain to reduce tilapia post-harvest losses. To this end, it is planned to build a processing plant associated with a tilapia and African catfish farm under development, in which the production of ice flakes plays an essential role to preserve tilapia caught, minimising post-harvest losses, one of the critical points in this emerging country. The processing plant, equipped with an ice flakes generator allows tilapia to be conditioned for sale as a fresh product. Ice flakes ensures, on the one hand, a reduction in the use of energy for fish preservation and, in addition, product uniform cooling and proper preservation for up to two weeks. The processing plant has also been designed with a freezing tunnel for deep-freezing, thus gaining in shelf life.

Investing in such technologies is therefore crucial to minimise production losses, while leading to a reduction of pressure on fish stocks, ultimately contributing to improving the sustainability of fish stocks and food and nutrition security.