My fellow Barbadians, it is indeed a privilege for me to address you today as Barbados joins with the global community to celebrate World Refrigeration Day, under the theme “Cold Chain 4 Life”. June 26 is designated as World Refrigeration Day to raise the profile of the Refrigeration, Air Conditioning (RAC) and Heat Pump Industry, and draws attention to the critical role that this industry and its technology plays in our daily lives.
This celebration is intended to highlight the significance and vital contribution that the Cold Chain system makes to ensuring food safety, food security as well as public health and safety.
The cold chain is an integrated set of activities that includes the movement of temperature sensitive goods (e.g. fish, meat, fruits, medicines, cut flowers etc.) from the point of harvesting and/or preparation along a supply chain in order to ensure that perishable goods are safe and of a high quality at the point of consumption.
Cold chain providers also contribute a great deal to the economy and workforce by creating businesses and providing jobs e.g. Refrigeration and Air conditioning technicians, importers and retailers of refrigerant, truck drivers, warehouse staff, logistics coordinators, inventory clerks, packaging staff, forklift operators, just to name a few.
Oftentimes processes and systems seem far removed from our daily lives and we sometimes do not connect how they may impact our livelihoods and activities. Today I wish to take a moment to re-emphasise that modern Barbadian life has become increasingly dependent on refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC) and the efficient operations of cold chains, whether they start at the point of international or local suppliers. If we did not have this technology or system in place at this time, some of the consequences would include:
- An additional threat to our food security due to increased levels of food loss as a result of damage or spoilage along the cold chain from the producer to market;
- The inability of blood banks, hospitals, and medical facilities to perform efficiently and safely to save lives, thereby adding further stress to healthcare services;
- The decreased potency and safety of medications; and
- A loss of revenue as a result of loss of goods e.g. foods, medicines and other perishable items.
The year 2020 to date has been unprecedented for the global community and particularly our island nation of Barbados as a consequence of the impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
We as a nation continue to mourn the loss of our brothers and sisters both at home and abroad. In the midst of our grief, we have had to perform a balancing act that involved devising initiatives and programmes geared toward providing assistance to the most vulnerable in our societies and those who lost their livelihoods, keep environmental and other programmes and projects going as much as possible within the confines of a national shut down while keeping public health and safety as a priority, and managing the impending economic fallout.
The Government and people of this nation have risen to the call to further expand our way of thinking, and to adjust our attitudes and approaches to how we live our daily lives and operate in all sectors of our society e.g. health, business, education, tourism, transportation.
Presently, these chains depend heavily on refrigeration systems which currently utilise refrigerants with high global warming potentials (GWPs) and grid electricity based on fossil fuels as well as off-grid diesel-based power generation [e.g. Photovoltaic (PV)/diesel system, generator) for facilities and for transport.
Juxtapose this with the goal for Barbados to become carbon neutral by 2030, it means that the Ministry of Environment and National Beautification will be required to take actions to facilitate improvements in energy efficiency in the cooling sector, the shift towards the use of environmentally friendly refrigerants, refrigerant technologies and renewable energy and support the optimization of temperature controlled supply chains within a long-term strategy with objectives, interventions and timelines.
In this regard, identifying and addressing the subject of cold chain systems is a testament to this Ministry’s commitment to using a holistic approach to executing national work programmes in order to achieve national developmental goals and objectives, while fulfilling international obligations under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that deplete the Ozone Layer and other interrelated international treaties such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Paris Agreement, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
At the international level, it has been established that by introducing robust cold chain systems more food would be available to feed the global population, billions of financial losses would be avoided and green-house gas (GHG) emissions as a result of inefficient or lack of cold chains would be reduced. These inalienable facts cannot be disputed in the case of Barbados.
Thus, the challenge for this government is to identify how social and economic benefits of the cold chain can be delivered through the expansion of cold-chain capacity, improving operational and energy efficiency quickly and affordably with the technical and financial assistance of development partners; while minimising adverse environmental effects such as: polluting the atmosphere with chemicals that destroy the ozone layer and contribute to climate change and wastage of energy, water, land and other resources that are used to produce food.
From an economic development perspective, cold chains enable our developing economy to trade in the global perishable products market as either producers or consumers. Accordingly, whether Barbados participates as a producer or consumer, the efficiency of the cold chain can contribute to saving substantial amounts of revenue by avoiding loss and/or waste and reduce risks to public health and safety. All revenue saved can be redirected into other critical areas to further support economic growth and national development.
I take this opportunity to thank the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (RAC) Association for the support and expertise provided to the National Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) and Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) Management programme of the Ministry of Environment and National Beautification over the years.
I also wish to acknowledge and thank all RAC technicians across Barbados who worked as an essential service to keep RAC Systems working efficiently during the national shut down. The Ministry commits to continuing to work together with all stakeholders and development partners on the matter of enhancing the cold chain system in Barbados as the country moves forward with its national development pursuits. Happy World Refrigeration Day.
I thank you.
Minister of Environment and National Beautification, Trevor Prescod, J.P, M.P.