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Future of Cold Chain uncertain

It has failed to meet expectations despite more than $300 million in investment.

Spanish version

Temas:

The future of the Cold Chain is still uncertain. Problems with structures, occupancy permits, access roads and utilities have affected the overall performance of the project.

To date, progress has been limited while producers are still waiting for what has been promised in both the governments of Ricardo Martinelli and Juan Carlos Varela, namely a system that will help get their products from fields to markets with limited spoilage.

But that has failed to happen. Early last year, it was reported that, due to faulty infrastructure, onions stored in the facilities of the cold chain had gone rotten.

According to Cold Chain Director Jose Benjamin De Dianous, changes are being made to improve the system, which to date has cost the government $309.5 million.

The system was supposed to include a network of seven markets in the country and four "post-harvest" centers.

In 2015, the Varela administration approved $19.5 million for operating expenses and the completion of pending jobs while the approved budget in 2016 was $13 million. This brought the total spent on the project to the $309.5 million figure, with the remaining funds being spent during the Martinelli administration.

But that investments has resulted in only two markets being opened, in Chiriqui and in Panama, while projects in La Chorrera, Chitre and Colón remain unfinished.

As for the four pos-tharvest centers, only two are operating. They are in Volcán and Cerro Punta. Centers in Dolega and Los Santos remain unfinished.

De Dianous said the agency is focused on the centers in Volcán and Cerro Punta.

The government's plan is to continue allocating more resources to the project, but it is unknown when it will be fully operational.

"I think the most important thing for farmers right now is to give them post-harvest centers that add value to the supply chain," said the official.

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