The COVID-19 pandemic situation has drastically affected every aspect of human lives. The controlling steps taken during the pandemic outbreak has not even spared the food supply chains, significantly impacting the necessary flow of the food production from farms to the producers and to the consumers. The world will witness several important, yet tough situations regarding the supply of food once the dramatic effect of COVID-19 will subside. But, the food sourcing services companies are already experiencing the effects as the key lessons are crystal clear t most of them. And, those who are aware of the future spell of disaster, are trying their best to use the momentum of the outbreak as their luck to re-design their food supply chain with future flexibility in their minds.

In this context, you will learn about the ways COVID-19 is interrupting the supply chain, the various forces adding fuel to the transition of supply chain, and the possible ways of building flexibility in the supply chain management.

How Covid-19 Is Interrupting The Supply Chain

There are several missing links between the farm and the fork identified by analysts that is essentially causing the disruption and damage in the supply chain management. Let’s take a look into the missing links in a comprehensive way:

  • Harvests- With the arrival of spring, the farmers are supposed harvest the crops as opposed to which the crops are rotting in the fields. For instance, the asparagus growers of Europe are incredibly short of the staff members, with Eastern Europe’s migrant workers unable to come to the fields due to risk of infection and broader restrictions laid down by the government.
  • Logistics- The logistics are experiencing somewhat a nightmare with international transport being restricted at the ports and made expensive. Where the field produce does get harvested and made ready to be transported, broader restrictions laid down on air freight are making the crops to remain in fields and rot over extended period.
  • Processing- The containment measures are causing the food processing plants to essentially shut down or remain closed due to shortage of staff, with their suppliers rushing up to adjust the output measures.
  • Go To Market- several companies use a considerable portion of their output via the out-of-home pathways. Such companies are dramatically experiencing slashed down sales.
  • Sourcing- supermarkets are under-delivered and understaffed while grading leading sales staff. Sourcing problems are causing products that require a wide array of ingredients are becoming increasingly difficult to get. And, those that are already produced are either disappearing from shelves due to high demand or rotting on the shelves due to shortage of staff not able to transport them worldwide.

Forces Adding Fuel To Supply Chain Transition

The food supply chain has always been in a transformation mode, even before the world got the news of coronavirus outbreak. The forces that caused the food sourcing services companies to stay in transition mode are still the same, with the pandemic situation adding some extra fuel to the transition. Let’s take a look into some of the main fuel-adding factors:

  • Changing preferences of consumer have now increased than ever. In fact, their preferences have reached heights with the advent of the pandemic situation. The consumers have become extremely conscious about their health, looking for raw and fresh food with origin that can be traced, and with an enhanced preference for local food supply.
  • Changing conditions of the trade due to the containment measures laid down by the government as a result of coronavirus outbreak is putting rakes on the international trading system. Besides, the ensuing political tensions and global trade wars are stimulating the stress on the international trade.
  • Changes in social and demographic standards is another factor adding fuel to the food supply chain transition. While the middle classes and ever-growing population will just remain a theme, the world will witness emergence of new patterns in the society, in the post-outbreak era. This will extensively happen as a result of local and regional products capturing bigger share in the production and consumption.
  • Enhanced unpredictability in the food supply chain will cause transition to a new level. This was already at its peak due to climate and geopolitical factors, and with the outbreak of coronavirus, the transformation in supply chain management will further fuel the volatility.
  • Strengthened standards and rules regarding the safety of food will be further increased in the wake of the pandemic situation, resulting in more regulatory pressures.

Reframing A Flexible Food Supply Chain

The food sourcing companies can somewhat go along this line to make their supply chain both resilient and responsible:

Make The Market Versatile

Bars and restaurants that conferred to existing channels of go-to-market were shut down after the outbreak of the pandemic. This instilled an expectation in the minds of sourcing experts that it will take another eighteen months for these go-to-market channels to return to normal life. Organizations, therefore, require investing their capital in digital or online solutions.

End-to-end Management Of Supply Chain

The post-outbreak era has increased the difficulties for sourcing experts as sourcing ingredients have become harder for businesses. But, there is an alternative where sourcing agents can work with broader pool of suppliers, keeping larger stocks and including the local and regional suppliers as well. The sourcing agents can also skip the strategy of using broad range of products as they increase the risk of spreading the infection. Instead, they can eliminate the problem products from their portfolio, leading to a leaner range of products and effectively reducing the cost and risk of spreading the infection. Meanwhile, sourcing experts should also invest in strengthening the relationship with supply chain partners by increasing loyalty and resilience between suppliers and buyers.

Industry 4.0

Digitalized supply network will eventually make the businesses less vulnerable over time. Robotics can decrease the dependency on laborers. The supply chain management system can be traced till the bottle neck with the help of track and trace solutions. The new-age tools and automated technologies can reduce cost and risks by revolutionizing business process. Artificial intelligence tools can predict the demand in early stage, thereby helping supply chain managers to choose the best course of action.

Nobody is aware of the timetable when COVID-19 will be lifted, but the sourcing companies that have used the down time in a positive way (as described above) will definitely come out fitter in the near future.

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