In this file:


·         The Fragile System Supplying Food to the World Is Under Strain

·         Grocery store shelves may be difficult to restock, UNK supply chain management professor says




The Fragile System Supplying Food to the World Is Under Strain


    ‘There could be a supply shock in terms of logistics:’ FAO

    Farm, retail groups warn of labor crunch, panic-buying strains


By Millie Munshi, Megan Durisin, and Corinne Gretler, Bloomberg 

March 20, 2020


Global warehouses are stuffed with frozen cuts of pork, wheels of cheese and bags of rice. But as the coronavirus snarls logistical operations, the question becomes: How does all that food actually get to people?


Despite the inventories, grocery stores are looking almost apocalyptic with aisles of empty shelves. Panic buying has made it nearly impossible for retailers and suppliers to keep up with the unprecedented spike in demand. In just one example of the constraints, there’s a finite number of trucks that can load up at warehouses to bring in the chicken or ice cream or toilet paper that people want to buy.


There are limits on how much time can be spent stocking shelves or filling rail cars. Then there’s this weird knock-on from the outbreak in China: Fewer goods were shipped out of Asia last month, and now there aren’t enough empty containers in countries like Canada to send peas out to the world.


“There’s a complicated web of interactions we don’t often think about that’s all part of the food-supply chain: truckers, rail cars, shipping, plant workers,” said Jayson Lusk, head of the department of agricultural economics at Purdue University. There are “big buckets of possible disruption,” and it’s possible the whole thing “is more fragile than we think it is,” he said.


That’s just the start of it. As the virus spreads and cases mount, there are seemingly countless ways the food system will be tested and strained in the coming weeks and months.


There’s the possibility of worker shortages as employees are forced to stay home because they’re ill or they’ve come into contact with someone who is. As schools close, plants may slow production because parents need to prioritize child care. Restrictions on migrant labor are increasing all over the world, stifling workers who are key to making sure tomatoes get picked and slaughterhouses run efficiently. Port closures and limits on trade could end up disrupting the flow of supplies and ingredients.


“We do not see a supply shock in the sense of the availability,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. “But there could be a supply shock in terms of logistics, not being able to move it from point A to point B. This is something new and very difficult to predict. It’s that uncertainty that right now is the biggest danger.”


Farmer, retail and trucker groups in countries including Brazil, the U.S. and France are ringing the alarm over major disruptions that can develop from quarantine and lock-down conditions, along with the possibility of a labor crunch. Government officials in Australia, Germany and Kazakhstan are worried about strains amid panic buying and logistical hurdles.


A drawn-out crisis could lead to “real shortages” starting with fruit and vegetables before impacting staples, German Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner said.


For consumers, the fallout will vary depending on where in the world they are. In the U.S., it could mean your favorite brand of potato chips is out of stock, but basic staples like rice or bread are available. In countries dependent on food imports, the situation could be more dire.


In every part of the world, you’ll probably be paying more for food...


more, including chart



Grocery store shelves may be difficult to restock, UNK supply chain management professor says


By Mike Konz, Kearney Hub (NE)

Mar 19, 2020


KEARNEY — Greg Benson ran an errand for his wife last weekend. Marci asked him to buy pork and beans, but when he arrived at Walmart, there wasn’t a can of beans to be had.


And the vinegar was sold out.


Across Second Avenue at Hy-Vee, the situation was similar. In fact, at most all grocery stores, products disappeared and shelves went bare as customers stockpiled food and supplies as if they were preparing for the worst blizzard of their lives.


Hand sanitizer, produce, bread and other products were gone — and as the stores have discovered, they’re difficult to restock...


... Chad Henning understands supply chain management. His family’s Kearney-based company, Cash-Wa Distributing, supplies food and many related products to restaurants, nursing homes and schools across the Midwest.


He said consumers established a pattern during the past several years, but what was normal then isn’t today. Because of coronavirus, people mostly are dining at home. Schools and their cafeterias are closed.


Food distributors like Cash-Wa and its vendors, along with grocers, could not have anticipated the drastic changes COVID-19 would cause, Henning said.


“The supply chain is invisible and under the radar to people,” he said. “They just show up at the store or the restaurant and think the food will be there. If anything, this pandemic shows the world how valuable the supply chain is.”


Supplying people’s food necessities is more than a business among distribution companies like Cash-Wa, Henning said. He said it’s more like a mission and commitment. “We’re networking with other distributors, and even competitors, about how to handle this. The situation is changing hour by hour, that’s for sure. There’s nothing but speculation about how long it’s going to last.”


Tony Seevers, the manager at Boogaarts Food Store, 1615 Second Ave., said the multiple companies that bring food to Kearney’s stores is like a metal chain that’s only as strong as its weakest link.


“We are all interdependent on each other. I’m only as strong as my warehouse, and the warehouse is only as strong as the manufacturers.”


Seevers said it’s been challenging keeping his shelves stocked. “With the quantity that people are buying things, we’re out of things.”


Seevers heard that Gov. Pete Ricketts is encouraging Nebraskans not to overbuy, but instead bring home just a week’s worth of groceries.


In his 38 years in the grocery business, Seevers said he’s not experienced anything like the coronavirus. “This is my first pandemic.”


Benson, the supply chain instructor who couldn’t find pork and beans, said COVID-19 has exposed flaws in the global supply chain. If just one link in the chain breaks, it can bring down the rest, especially because so many industries are so careful not to overproduce their products...