If there’s anything this pandemic has done well, it is to expose broken systems.
One in particular is our local food chain, the complex network between producers and consumers. It has long been crippled by huge gaps resulting to massive spoilage and high prices. And when the country – together with the rest of the world - shut down due the pandemic, all which is wrong was brought to the forefront.
Apart from the obvious health and safety concerns, the pandemic has also brought up the question of food security. In effect, during the early weeks of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), most local governments through groceries and supermarkets implemented rationing for the most basic items. With production halted, transportation limited, and some households stockpiling, they were afraid that there wouldn’t be enough supplies to go by.
And it is sufficient supply during these unprecedented times that had driven Meralco partner Glacier Megafridge to rethink its business strategy.
“The demand was sustainable during this pandemic period such that we have to re-engineer bringing the product to the consumers. Because the malls are dysfunctional so are all the other market channels. That’s where our ingenuity comes in. We have adapted the business to address the situation, given the circumstances," says Glacier Megafridge Inc. Managing Director Arturo Yan. They added a new link to the cold storage chain in the form of micro hubs, ranging from a hulking twenty-foot container to a humble chest freezer.
Meralco as an energy partner
Their latest project with Meralco, the energization of a cold storage facility in Balagtas, Bulacan, couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
“Meralco was able to help me energize our plant in a short time… It was not easy because we had to interface the high voltage feed to the plant which has not been running for some time," Yan said.
The quick efforts of Meralco helped enable Glacier Megafridge to prolong the shelf life of its products—ensuring food security non-spoilage of goods. The updated one-hectare facility in Central Luzon can house 6,200 cubic meters of items, ranging from vegetables and meat to pharmaceutical products and electronics.
And the partnership has been a very fruitful one as 6 out of the 9 cold storage facilities, located in the north and south of Metro Manila, operate with Meralco as a partner in electric supply requirements.
Suspension of Meralco’s GMBD
Like all Meralco partners, Glacier Megafridge also benefited from the deferment of its Guaranteed Minimum Billing Demand (GMBD) – the minimum demand in kilowatts (kW) for business customers with contracted capacity of 5kW and above – during the early stages of the pandemic. “So when Meralco supported us, in deferring that GMBD, we were also able to defer our cash outflow expenses. So combined with the support of Meralco and our ability to keep our expense low, we were able to help our clients. And with that, the business engine doesn’t stop… because when that stops, we’re in a lot of trouble.”
But trouble is the last thing Glacier Megafridge Inc. wants. Quite the opposite, they have always been driven by the common good.
“We build cold storage facilities in all farm-to-market roads so that we can preserve these products then bring them to the market," explains Yan. “These past decades, we’ve been living in a high-price regime wherein we get something at a high price even if we’re not satisfied. Because of the absence of a cold chain, the thirty percent spoilage [cost] is passed on to us, consumers.”
Glacier Megafridge has been trying to put a stop to this for years by putting up cold storage facilities around the country.
To preserve their products in their utmost quality, Glacier Megafridge uses Japanese technology as well as Filipino talent and ingenuity. “I use the technology for quality preservation and supply chain logistics from Japan. Most of our refrigeration equipment and the way of designing it come from our Japanese partners.”
Yan further explains, “It would be too expensive if I would also use Japanese engineers so with that, there’s a technology transfer which will allow me to build the plant physically with Filipino engineers.”
The Japanese design and machinery have made their facilities inherently clean – which is essential due to the nature of the goods they store. But in light of this pandemic, it is nothing short of brilliant as it also made their cold storage plants rather Covid-19-proof.
“One of our designs is to have a barrier. All cold storage facilities have an embedded vapor barrier system that seals freezing air temperature at crucial levels of up to – 40 C. The same system also sustains absolutely clean level of air purity that is important for food security and sustaining huge inventory of pharmaceutical products. We are sure that the air inside is free from any particles, regardless of Covid-19 or SARS.”
With cold storage playing a very decisive part in the inoculation of the 110M Filipinos against the deadly COVID-19, it’s reassuring to know that Glacier Megafridge is equipped and willing to do its part in helping the country achieve a better normal.
“There’s the lag. Once you bring the vaccines to the port, there should be quality preservation to spread the distribution to all the Filipinos in various locations. Again, quality preservation will prevail. And during that time in managing the inventory, we should be able to park those inventory in the Bustos plant, our existing plants, and also the future plants that we will be building in north Luzon and in Mindanao.”
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