Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, transportation of any kind has had to stop in order to contain the virus. But while everything has had to be put on hold, food is the one thing that has to keep coming in order to keep the population happy. With all the regulation put in place, it became more and more difficult for food transportation companies to deliver all the merchandise.
But how has the food transportation been impacted since the beginning of confinement? And what can be done to ease the problems on that front?
COVID-19 and Food Shipments all around the Globe
Following the lockdown, industries have had to face negative impacts, especially food and freight forwarding companies all around the world. For the ports that have stopped food trade, it is becoming even worse than before. For instance, in the Philippines, it has become more and more difficult for food trade to stay afloat, some are even about to shut down as thousands of containers keep piling up as lockdown measures make transportation even harder.
Also, this predicament has a huge impact on countries that rely on food transportation, such as Africa. For the United States, these huge delays have also impacted the transportation of goods. In Canada, Covid-19 affected the shipping routes. Some were canceled by carriers due to lower demand. Food shipping companies in Montreal are having more and more trouble delivering food. According to Philippe Binard, General Delegate of Freshfel Europe, food exporters have to wait longer for the incoming shipments to empty and refill them completely. Stuffing as many goods as possible in the containers is what causes the delays. Food truck refrigerators are the best in this situation to keep the food intact while waiting for other products to be put inside.
Fortunately, for some countries, the worst is behind them. In China for example, thousands of containers containing frozen meat that were stocked due to contamination and labor shortage, have now been shipped to their final destinations. In Brazil, the exportation of soybeans, beef, coffee, and sugar is still running normally.
Considering the current situation, the heads of the World Trade Organization, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization called upon countries to reduce the impact on border restrictions concerning food trade.
The Truck Driver Shortage and the Food Supply Chain
As the pandemic created a panic amongst shoppers, grocery stores in the US have had to adapt to the situation by closing earlier in order to restock their shelves. Even though the food industries have assured us that no food shortage will happen, it doesn’t mean that the virus won’t be a threat to the food system in general. Due to the virus’ persistence, labor shortages could become a serious problem for the food industry.
Despite the fact that the U.S. food system is often criticized for being gigantic, it still has plenty of food available for the long haul.
However this system isn’t perfect, and some elements could make a bad situation worse. Transportation is the key to connecting the supply chain, from farms to grocery stores. So, any labor shortage, especially truck drivers, could really become a serious problem for the food supply chain, mostly if the food demands keep increasing. But right now, it is difficult to assess the exact nature of the labor shortage in the truck industry.
Right now, trucks are still moving and delivering as before in the US. It could become problematic for long-haul deliveries but not for the short ones. A lot of companies have no problem with drivers being away for a few hours, but when drivers have to be gone for days or weeks, it has become difficult to recruit employees, and the restriction is quite a problem too.
In order to ease the situation, the U.S. Transportation Department’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration stopped the rules limiting daily driving hours for truck drivers. And it is starting to spread everywhere the world.
Strategic Measures for Food Transportation
To face the impact on food value chains, some efficient logistics ideas have been revealed:
- Stay informed of government interventions and reforms: Carry out rapid assessments of food stocks and forecast to face any gaps or surpluses due to bans or shortages. Also, considering reallocation for food stocks in the country avoids price spikes in some regions.
- Understand the demand: Make simulations on the demand increase and see if the production can be adapted to this demand. Moreover, know which routes are blocked and assess the number of workers who won’t be able to work.
- Prioritize logistics: Truck drivers should be allowed to cross domestic and international borders with adequate health measures taken. Furthermore, the development of storage facilities where farmers can deliver their products instead of going to the market allows for the products to be delivered quicker to the grocery stores in need.
- Support transport: Give transportation support for the producers and distributors so that their products and stocks could be easily delivered to central distributing locations. Make sure to have fast and efficient health screening while delivering. For critical products like fruits and vegetables, put a special label on them to minimize the hurdles during travel. And finally, you have to make the best of the space in the trucks, containers etc. As it is complicated to travel, it is better to maximize transport. For example, a truck that goes from a company to a port should come back full and not empty, if not for their company, then for another. Everything is possible with good coordination.
In conclusion, the food supply chain has only been impacted because of delivery delays due to the restrictions and bans all around the world. This Covid-19 virus is far from over and it is very important to keep the food supply afloat to avoid any shortages in grocery stores all over the globe. New ways of transportation are being tested at the moment with all the health precautions necessary.