WATCH: Coronavirus in focus... the supply chain, shopping behavior, innovation and investment

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: COVID-19, coronavirus

The food industry has moved remarkably quickly to adjust to a sudden and spectacular shift in food consumption towards the home as America goes into lockdown. But there could be significant challenges ahead if more countries block food exports, while movement restrictions could impact the supply of vital labor, say supply chain experts.

Kazakhstan has banned exports of wheat, carrots, sugar and potatoes; Vietnam has suspended new rice export contracts; Serbia has stopped the flow of sunflower oil and other goods; and Russia - the breadbasket of the world - is also leaving the door open to shipment bans, says Kevin Kenny, COO at supply chain compliance specialist Decernis​.

Movement restrictions are also beginning to impact the supply of labor required to get food from the field to the table, says Kenny.

"Certain crops are not able to be brought in and harvested right now where we rely on migrant workers, and if people can’t move and cross borders it will cause all kinds of unforeseen consequences in the supply chain, so there is a growing crisis on the horizon."

Meanwhile, he says, "Food is getting hung up in ports and at borders around the world… and if you have fungible goods, that’s not good... Food is going to rot in the field, in the warehouse, in a ship, on a truck."

Emergency onboarding of alternative suppliers during a pandemic can also be a challenge when you can’t physically audit plants, adds Kenny, who says there is no room for complacency, even if products seem to be moving smoothly right at this moment.

"People need to be looking at least 6-8 weeks out and seeing where they might have supply chain disruptions and start working on plan B now.”

Checkout our video exploring how coronavirus is impacting everything from new product development to sales of baking yeast (spoiler alert, they are up, a LOT)...

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