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Covid-19 and the risk to food supply chains

Friday 3 April 2020

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Fabrizio Paratore
Website Officer, Agricultural Law Section; Chair, Commodities and Derivatives Subcommittee of the International Commerce and Distribution Committee
f.paratore@pplaw.it

 

We are facing difficult times that will probably change the way we interact with others for many years.

The food supply chain is still strong and is not suffering from contraction so far.

Recent forecasts about food production and food economy, created in Italy, where the virus is hitting the population and businesses very hard (on a personal note, one of my closest friends, who is the Chief Executive Officer of a food business, is now hospitalised with bilateral pneumonia and all of his line managers are quarantined at home), estimate an increase in production and turnover of both farms and the food industry in the next year.

We have also been informed of a strong increase in orders of food products (both commodities and processed goods) during the crisis.

However, problems are encountered every day with workforce availability on agricultural and production sites. By way of example, immigration limitations are now preventing the use of seasonal foreign workers to collect food, for example tomatoes and oranges. Some production lines are also affected by the lockdown and sanitary measures.

Furthermore, we received notice of shipping companies refusing to cross borders towards the most stricken countries for fear of the virus.

Nevertheless, we can state that Covid-19 does not spread through goods and thus the request from some countries to release a virus-free certificate seems totally unjustified.

As is outlined in the following article by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), local governments have adopted many solutions, but the sanitary and economic challenges are still far from being overcome.