Japan to help ASEAN chill out in food distribution
Guidelines will aim to bring strict temperature control to Southeast Asia
TOKYO -- Japan's transport ministry will assist in the development of refrigerated-distribution networks in Southeast Asia to enable the region to meet growing demand for fresh foods, ultimately enhancing opportunities for Japanese businesses.
Transport ministers from Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' 10 members are to sign an agreement toward this end in Singapore this October.
They will look at the current state of logistics channels in each country and create two sets of common guidelines on chilled distribution for the bloc by autumn of next year. One will help governments draw up rules and regulations, while the other will give local distribution companies guidance.
The Japanese logistics industry's elaborate chilled-distribution system includes precise temperature ranges for such specific food categories as tuna; ice cream and other frozen products; vegetables, seafood and dairy; and rice.
Temperatures are tightly controlled at every step when transporting vegetables, for example, from the fields to warehouses, processing facilities, chilled storage and shops. Even ranges when loading and reloading trucks at warehouses are specified.
The guidelines will also cover rules for handling imports, including fruits, flowers and seafood, that will be drawn up with an eye toward current conditions in ASEAN.
Demand for refrigerated distribution has been growing in Asia, where increasingly better-off consumers have developed a taste for eating out and shopping at convenience stores. More people are also enjoying frozen foods at home, with the proportion of the households owning a microwave oven nearing 10% in Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. There is also a growing need for refrigerated-distribution channels for medicine.
ASEAN offers a promising market for food makers as home to roughly 620 million consumers. But chilled-distribution networks in Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia are not robust, so food may get spoiled in transit, said a senior official at Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
The ministry hopes that improving food safety in the region with Japanese refrigerated-distribution technologies and know-how will help boost growth in domestic demand, broadening business opportunities for corporate Japan.
Spreading the word
In line with this thinking, the transport ministry here plans to hold dialogues with the Philippine and Indonesian governments this year and promote technologies and expertise behind Yamato Transport's Cool Ta-Q-Bin temperature-controlled door-to-door delivery service.
Parent company Yamato Holdings made the request that led the British Standards Institution to issue an international standard for refrigerated-parcel delivery services this past February. The Japanese ministry aims to urge Asian distribution companies to comply with the standard, which covers such details as how to control temperature and handle reloading of parcels during delivery runs using refrigerated trucks.
With units in China, Singapore and Malaysia certified in the international standard, Yamato offers refrigerated-parcel delivery services in greater Asia. The ministry wants to further the trend by promoting the company's quality chilled-distribution service.