OMG! Food Supply Chain Screwed! Closures of Food Processing Plants, Just The Beginning
By Matthias Chang – Future Fast-Forward
Farms and processing plants are not your next door neighbours located at or near the big cities. Thus far, most infections are in the cities, much less or hardly any in “agriculture heartlands” with slaughter houses and food / meat processing plants within reasonable transportation distance.
So, when news of the starting points (i.e. farms and processing plants) of the food supply chain were shutting down because Covid 19 was infecting the employees, a cold chill spiralled down my spine. I literally jumped out of my chair and started pacing. It was “Holy Smoke” time for me to shift my mental gears to be turbo-charged mode. Malaysia imports a lot of food.
First Gear Shift
What strain of the Covid 19 virus infected the employees and were there any connections with people, thing etc. relating to Wuhan? At the outset of the outbreak of Covid 19, I warned that there were two strains – SARs-CoV-2 (the latest) and its “Mother” SARS strain”, the former was referred to as the “L” strain, which is more virulent and the latter referred to as the “S” strain. We are now informed that the scientists at the Cambridge University have identified three strains – A, B and C from DNA analysis etc. For sure, it matters not to John Doe if he is injured by a motorcycle or a car and ends up dead.
If the infection has nothing to do with the Wuhan strain, the implications are obvious. For the purpose of this article and the constraints of length (not exceeding 1,500 words), I have decided to visit this issue in another article.
Second Gear Shift
The supply chains for processed foods maybe scattered, with some varieties dominated by a few giants, but the impact would be global when there are major disruptions. Just visit any supermarkets, the range of processed foods are enormous and from different countries. And we are mostly meat centric, except for the vegans and even they are subject to scarcity and price inflation.
Fresh foods are also subject to the horrors of major disruptions in the supply chain. And your favourite restaurant serving gourmet or “fast” food, would definitely remain shut down for want of supply.
Turbo-Charger Failed – Dead Meat!
Once inflations kicks in, a bowl of noodles will be RM8 and not RM6 depending on the type of noodles ordered. And the price will not retreat! Imported processed food will also increase.
We must take into consideration that during MCO / Lockdowns in Malaysia as well as in other countries, there were massive wastages – shelf life for food (fresh or otherwise) would expire and undelivered food-stock of all types, if have to be consumed “fresh” or pre-cooked would be discarded. There is also the issue of “planting seasons” and harvesting. Disruption to the time-lines throttles the supply chain, as when vegetables are left to rot in situ and if harvested cannot be stored as they are transported to the markets immediately, with no buyers or lack of buyers. The list of disruptions goes on.
The inevitable lack of supply will drive inflation. This will be the new normal.
Remember when the PH regime abolished the GST tax and replaced it with the SST tax, prices did not come down as promised and expected.
Now that we are in the Manual Gear Shift mode, we have time to contemplate on the kick-in-the-arse issue – Food Safety. Foreign workers, legally and illegally employed are engaged in every link of the Supply Chain and there is lacking the relevant data sets (I stand to be corrected) to enable us to formulate the policy for the speedy restoration of the food chain while minimising or eliminating the hazards to food safety.
I do not have the answers yet, as data are lacking. I hope the “MCO time” would allow the government and the experts to formulate a strategy for all of us to have basic food at our dinner table.