Cold Chain in Latin America; Progression and Challenges

A cold chain is a continuous process of logistical and productive operations that allow the production, transport, storage, and distribution of food; medicines, and other products that need to maintain their properties at controlled temperatures. For the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), a cold chain comprises the stages of pre-cooling, storage, transport, distribution, retail and domestic refrigeration.

According to Mordor Intelligence, an advisor company, the Latin American Cold Chain Logistics market was valued at $3,077.15 million in 2020 and is expected to exhibit a CAGR of over 12% during the forecast period (2021-2026).

Latin American countries export various products across the world. Many of these products reach the final consumer under natural conditions and with quality, depending on the cold chain, such as meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and processed foods. The recipient countries for these products are North America, Europe, and Latin America itself. However, there are other products, especially pharmaceuticals, as happened with vaccines against Covid-19, in which the final countries were those of the African continent and South America.

The Latin American cold chain market is being affected by the current energy crisis. This crisis has direct consequences on transport prices and the price of electricity, which is so necessary for the production and storage of products. This negative effect of the energy crisis contradicts the growth of international trade in perishable products, technological progress, and conservation of products that occurred during the COVID 19 pandemic.

The increase in demand for medicines with the respective logistical process of distribution and storage at low temperatures down to -70℃, as is the case with the COVID-19 vaccine from the Pfizer/Biontech consortium, has led to the cold chain sector to develop technologically and expand in different Latin American countries. However, in this area too, the shortage of labor and the lack of infrastructure, makes it urgent to join the efforts of the various countries at a political and social level, along with a large financial investment.

A study carried out by the Cold Chain working group of the Ibero-American Federation of Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (FAIAR) shows that most Latin American countries are on the right track in producing legislation and regulations to guarantee the food safety of refrigerated and frozen products.  However, there are some countries where food standards are not mandatory and, therefore, it is not possible to guarantee the food safety of all products, as can be seen in Figure 1.

Fig. 1 – Comparative study of the regulation of the cold chain in Latin America Countries. FAIAR´s Cold Chain Task Force (

Lately, COVID-19 has boosted demand for cold chain logistics. The vaccine trade across the Latin American region has played a vital role in driving the market forward, alongside increased sales of frozen foods and milk products. Four countries lead the market in Latin America, Brazil is the first, followed by Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia. According to Mordor Intelligence, Colombia is the fastest growing market, as the adoption of better and modern cold chain technologies causes the export of exotic fruits had increased by 6% between January and November 2019, when compared to the same period of 2018. The country estimates that the sales of the processed food industry will increase significantly until 2025, generating a great development opportunity for companies in the cold chain logistics and warehousing market. Another country that will join the four largest in the cold chain market is Peru. Peru is expected to record a growth rate of 15.16% during the forecast period (2020-2026). Figure 2 shows the Latin American Cold Chain Logistics Market.

Fig. 2 – Latin America Cold Chain Logistics Market: growth rate by country, 2021. (Source:

The cold chain market in Latin America is adopting legislation and simultaneously emerging technologies, such as the internet of things to manage the entire logistical process of storage, transport, and exchange of information from the beginning of the chain to the end consumer. Companies are the driving force of development in the sector in Latin America, however, they have to prepare themselves for the hard task that is, management of uncertainty in supply and demand, energy savings, and cost reduction.

Odete de Almeida

Maria Odete Magalhães de Almeida is a Mechanical Engineer at the University of Porto and a Building Physics Engineer at the University of Eindhoven. After finishing her first degree, she moved to the USA for HVACR training at Carrier University in 1997. In 1999 she co-founded Paulo Queirós de Faria – Consulting Engineers. Since 2006 is a part-time professor at the Polytechnic of Porto.
Odete de Almeida is responsible for the student activities at the Portugal Chapter of ASHRAE. She is vocal of the Regional Association of Mechanical Engineers-OERN and an expert on the Portuguese System of Energy Certification.
From 2020 to 2022 she was the President of the Federation of Ibero-American Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Associations, and from 2019 to 2021, the president of the Portuguese Association of Industrial Cold and Air Conditioning Engineers.
She is the author of a variety of articles in magazines and invited lecturer in the HVAC&R domain.