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Carl Collen

BY CARL COLLEN

Craig Stauffer outlines coronavirus impact

Head of Vanguard International looks at the impact Covid-19 is having, and could potentially have, on operations

Craig Stauffer outlines coronavirus impact

Craig Stauffer

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Craig Stauffer, chief executive at US-based grower, marketer and distributor Vanguard International, has released an open statement on the impact of Covid-19 on the fresh produce supply chain, focusing in particular on transportation, production nd demand.

In his message, Stauffer described the impact of the virus on the industry as "fast-moving", and explained that, given the nature of the food supply chain – "an incredibly connected web of agricultural inputs, fruit packers and processors, transportation, shipping, and more" – disruption to both supply and demand of fresh produce was inevitable.

"Professionals in the fresh produce industry, including Vanguard’s team, are working around the clock to combat challenges of border closures, quarantines, and supply chain and/or trade disruptions to limit the impact on people’s and our customers’ access to diverse sources of quality assured fresh fruits and vegetables," he said.

Stauffer went on to list a breakdown of the areas that Covid-19 is having an impact on, or could do moving forward, beginning with transportation.

Transport

He said that restrictions of movement and logistic delays would disrupt some regular supply chain flow as we move into April and May, noting that Vanguard was working with all major transportation service providers to minimise potential negative impacts for growers and customers.

"These restrictions might impede growers from selling their produce to regular markets and we are doing everything possible to keep shipments flowing smoothly to all destinations," Stauffer said.

Halts and delays in transporting fresh produce would bring up storage concerns, he predicted, while distributors would aim to re-locate produce as quickly as possible to reduce food loss or waste.

"So far, we are pivoting successfully, and this is little cause for concern, but as the situation unfolds in the coming days and weeks, we are aware this could change and are contingency planning constantly," Stauffer continued, adding that Vanguard had also seen price hikes on inland and ocean freight surcharges, as well as skyrocketing airfreight rates.

Agriculture production  
 
There was little cause for concern in this area, Stauffer outlined, as agricultural activities are deemed an essential services in most, if not all, countries worldwide.

While concern was growing about growers’ workforces being impeded by seasonal workers not being able to cross borders, or becoming ill themselves, he said that Vanguard was seeing signs of improvement in the US with the easing of restrictions on H2A labour crossings from Mexico.

He pointed out that hindrances to labour could impact production, especially for labour-intensive crops, and said that a shortage of fertilisers or other supplies could affect the rate of agricultural production.
 
Fresh produce demand

"There is very little cause for concern, globally, as there is plenty food for everyone," Stauffer said. "In fact, demand has increased for fresh produce as consumers seek to increase their daily intake of fresh fruits and vegetables to boost their immune systems since the onset of Covid-19.

It was important to take into consideration other factors that affect fresh produce demand such as restaurant closures as well as individuals creating new habits such as eating more at home, and conducting less frequent grocery store runs, he said, adding that dietary patterns were changing, with shifts in how people buy and consume food – including an increase in e-commerce shopping in countries like China.

"This industry has been built on its ability to adopt, adapt, and change quickly," Stauffer added. "This isn’t the first global concern that has put pressure on our food system.

"We, as a collective industry, are well-versed in how to shift the supply chain to benefit as many people as possible. If you have questions or concerns about your region, please reach out to your local Vanguard representative. We are in this together."

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