The cornavirus pandemic has highlighted supply chain weaknesses that are causing food shortages. As explained in an FAO report, the global pandemic is threatening supply lines leading to concerns about food insecurity. “A protracted pandemic crisis could quickly put a strain on the food supply chains, a complex web of interactions involving farmers, agricultural inputs, processing plants, shipping, retailers and more,” the report said. In a March paper the U.N. Committee on World Food Security (CFS) warned that Covid-19 will cause heightened instability in global food supply. The pandemic also prompted the Food and Land Use Coalition to issue a call to action for world leaders over what they describe as a humanitarian crisis requiring urgent coordinated action.
Food shortages are already apparent around the world and according to Business Insider, food retailers may experience food shortages for 18 months or more. Food that comes from large industrial farms are especially vulnerable. The megabarns in which livestock and poultry are produced are breeding grounds for disease. Social distancing is not an option for farm workers or those that work in food processing facilities. Disease rapidly spreads in such workplaces and when these workers get sick the supply chain breaks down.
However, our current situation affords insight into the mechanics of supply chain disruptions. COVID-19 is far from over and it is certainly not the last pandemic we will face. We also know that climate change will be far more disruptive to supply chains. A warming planet interferes with food production by decreasing the fertility of soils, reducing the number of pollinators and increasing extreme weather events including droughts and floods.
As explained by Seckin Ozkul, a supply chain management expert at the University of South Florida, these disruptions help us to identify vulnerabilities. “We had seen regional, we had seen national disasters and destruction, but we had never seen a full global [disruption] at the same time — everyone shot down at the same time,” Ozkul said. “So now we want to look at this so that the next time it happens we can be better prepared and we can actually take the necessary precautions so we don’t see the impact as much as we see it now.”
Using the lessons gleaned from this pandemic we can redesign our supply chains in ways that mitigate against the risks of disruption. One of the most important things we can do is create sustainable supply chains. To help reduce the risks associated with factory farms we can diversify the procurement of our foods so that we are not overly dependent on any one source.
Building Resilience to Supply Chain Disruptions due to Climate Change
Supply Chain Sustainability Guidance and Standards
Sustainable Procurement: Environmental Social and Economic Supply Chain Considerations
How to Craft Value Out of Sustainability Focused Supply Chains
The Sustainable Supply Chain Imperative
The Supply Chain of CO2 Emissions (White Paper)
Digging In: The Nuts and Bolts of Supply Chain Sustainability (White Paper)
Sustainable Supply Chains are Profitable