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Home > Focus > Supply chain pests: Challenges and recommendations:

Supply chain pests: Challenges and recommendations:

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In this comprehensive review of the state of warehouse pest management in India today, M. Arunkumar, Head of Professional Pest Management & Termite Control, Dr. Ashish Dokras, Head of Market Development & Training and Dr. Arun Kumar, Head of South Asia for Bayer Environmental Science Write about types of pests and warehouses, challenges, the best problem-solving approach and solutions.

Agro-based warehouse pests

Pest management challenges in warehouses vary by sector. The major focus in warehouse pest management today is in the agricultural sector, where the key challenge is to reduce the wastage due to pests in grain storage. Annual storage losses in India are primarily due to moisture, moulds, insect pests and rodents, and have been estimated at INR 7000 crores. Insects alone account for losses worth nearly INR 1300 crores (source: Indian Grain Storage Management & Research Institute, 2015).

Unfortunately, in India most of the grain storages are on flat surfaces and not in silos or hermetic, leading to rise in pest infestation levels with grains getting infested with moulds and insects. Over 600 species of insect pests affect stored products, and nearly 100 insect pests are known to cause economic losses. Further, the amount of food destroyed by rodents each year is estimated to be enough to feed over 200 million people, making the issue of food losses of high importance in the efforts to combat hunger, raise income and improve food security in India.

Other warehouse pests
Type of warehouse Items stored in warehouse Major pest concerns
Food & Beverage Freshly prepared foods, packaged foods, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (e.g. tea, coffee, milk, fruit juices, soft drinks, wines, etc.) Rodents, house flies, fruit flies, drain flies, fungus gnats, ants, cockroaches, night flying insects, etc.
Bakery Cakes, biscuits, pastries, breads, confectionery, etc. Rodents, cockroaches, house flies, crickets, meal moths, ants, biscuit beetles, firebrats, booklice, etc.
Dairy products Fresh milk, milk powders, ice creams, cheese, yogurt, etc. Booklice, cockroaches, flies, mites, rodents
Construction material Cement, steel, sand, concrete, ready-mix concrete, binding wires, aggregates, bricks, blocks, timber, wood frames, etc. Rodents, termites, silverfish, house flies, spiders, crickets, ground beetles, etc.
Pharmaceuticals Medicines and drugs, vaccines, diagnostic products, etc. Rodents, flies, cockroaches, spiders, etc.
Automotive material Hardware product, software product, or combination of hardware and software used in an automobile, truck, bus, train, or other transportation vehicles Rodents, spiders, cockroaches, beetles, night flying insects
Packaging material Film, foils, paper, cardboard, plastics glass caps, metal forming Cockroaches, crickets, plaster beetles, ground beetles, fungus beetles, house flies, etc.

Observed challenges on the ground

Our experience is that the major reported pest damage are from rodents and entry of insects near the vicinity of the warehouses; this will differ according to warehouse location. Much of the growth of new warehouses is taking place with horizontal build-up (e.g. along major highways, and on outskirts of major cities). Given that agricultural or fallow land is being converted into storage space, termites also present a credible long-term threat unless prevented or treated proactively.

With the rapid increase in e-commerce, there is also an increase in products that are transferred through logistics partners. In addition to warehouses, delivery trucks and vans can be sources of household pests such as rodents, cockroaches, ants, and bedbugs. These pests also in turn transfer easily via packaging material into consumers’ homes, resulting in a second-order pest infestation.

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Systematic approach for managing warehouse pests:

Given the variety of pests, an integrated approach to pest management is essential in warehouses. This involves two components:

  1. Preventive approach involves a broad-based approach that tackles the fundamental conditions that lead to pest infestation. Controlling moisture of storage facilities (e.g. water leaks in godowns), ensuring sanitation and appropriate storage, and executing proper maintenance of warehouses (e.g. cracks and crevices in walls which serve as potential harbourages for insect pests, cleanliness of the facility, etc.) creates an environment that is not conducive for re-infestation of pests. Most of these factors are difficult to get right consistently.

When building new warehouses, pre-construction anti-termite treatment, where the soil is pre-treated with termiticide prior to construction of the warehouse, proofing measures against rodents, birds, and flying insects, proper installation of lights in the external perimeter of warehouses, will help deter potential issues later.

  1. Curative approach requires a dedicated, consistent view to maintain updated SOPs for warehouse pest management. Many pesticide products being used are outdated or not endorsed by the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee which is the pesticide approval authority in India. Some pesticides used at warehouses have toxicity extending even beyond insects; some of these have been banned for use, however, the old chemistries have not been replaced with innovative, efficient, and safer solutions.

Pest management at many warehouses is outsourced to Warehouse Service Providers (WSPs). A periodic review of, and adherence to SOPs in collaboration with the WSPs is important to ensure adequate protection.

Modernise storage and pest management techniques

The future of warehouse management (especially grains) in India is moving towards more of silos and hermetic storage, as higher adoption of silo storage lowers the pest challenges. It is also important to prioritize safe and sustainable solutions. The use of the latest chemistries at their correct dosage ensures that the most effective, cost-efficient solutions are used safely to protect the premises. Where available, GreenPro or HACCP-certified (safe to use in food handling areas) products indicate an extra level of attention to the environment.

Embrace digital solutions

Warehouse pest management can significantly benefit from digitisation. Novel technologies are being deployed in warehouses for pest detection using cameras, infrared sensors, and motion sensors. The industry is also learning more about pest behaviour and the effectiveness of control tools. While rodents were the first pest group targeted, stored products pests, flying insects and even bedbugs can be monitored via electronic monitoring devices today. There are now camera-based pheromone traps and insect light traps that are being used to photograph trap-captures. The images from such trap-captures are sent to a remote monitoring company for analysis. Remote monitoring combined with artificial intelligence can help identify the pest that encounters the sensor.

As companies, including WSPs, digitise different aspects of their supply chains, they also need to show willingness to invest in this direction. Bayer has placed a high emphasis on creating and piloting such digital solutions to solve customers’ problems in warehouse pest management. A digital rodent monitoring system is one such example and this provides real-time visibility of rodent activity for the warehouse managers, WSPs and pest control operators (PCOs) to monitor and efficiently manage large facilities. Such technologies can provide a reliable, yet cost-effective way to service many rodent traps that do not see captures on a regular basis.

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