UPDATED Timeline: Impacts of COVID-19 on the global food industry25 May 2020
The number of people affected by Covid-19 continues to climb, with confirmed cases surpassing 5.5 million and the number of deaths at nearly 347,000 worldwide as of May 25.
This timeline highlights key events affecting the food industry and how it is responding to the ongoing crisis.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) highlight shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) for the food and agriculture sector, and recommend making the food industry a priority for their provision. It clarifies that the healthcare sector and emergency responders are the top priority for distribution of PPE, but says the food sector should be provided with adequate face masks, disinfectant and sanitation supplies. The agencies say it has become clear that any disruption in the supply of food and agricultural commodities – and everything needed to provide them – can have a significant ripple effect, “from growers and suppliers through processors and distributors to retailers”.
The world’s largest dairy exporter, New Zealand-based Fonterra, says that Covid-19 has affected “virtually every country, market and industry, and as a result, the global dairy market is volatile and the outlook is uncertain”. It says the foodservice sector in China has rebounded relatively well, although it is still not at 100%, but it is now seeing lower foodservice sales across Southeast Asia, Oceania and Latin America. Meanwhile, dairy purchases for at-home consumption spiked initially but have not been sustained. The dairy giant exports about 95% of its products.
The United Arab Emirates has tripled local food production during the Covid-19 pandemic and increased its air cargo capacity to help guard against import restrictions, The National reports. The country is highly dependent on food imports, and has aimed to increase domestic production of essential items such as dairy products, cooking oil, dates, fresh poultry, fish and seafood, amid concerns about trade restrictions and logistical issues. The Emirates Food Security Council says it wants to boost production of essential foods by 15% by 2021.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization says it needs $350 million to scale up its efforts to fight hunger and protect livelihoods, particularly in countries that were already food insecure before the Covid-19 crisis. Falling incomes and rising food prices already are affecting people in such countries, but the effect could be compounded by farmers being unable to access seeds and other inputs, feed for their animals, or being prevented from accessing their fields. FAO Director-General QU Dongyu warns that food security issues must be addressed alongside the health crisis in order to “save lives and livelihoods, and pull people back from the verge of famine”.
China asks food processors and trading firms to boost their supply of grains and oilseeds on rising fears of a second wave of coronavirus cases, both within the country and elsewhere. Traders are particularly concerned about the supply of soybeans and meat from Brazil, China’s top soybean supplier, Reuters reported. Soybean stocks have fallen to a record low in China as movement restrictions in Brazil took effect, combined with heavy rains.
President Trump says that US farmers will receive $19 billion in coronavirus compensation, including $16 billion in direct payments. The USDA says it will partner with local suppliers to buy a further $3 billion worth of fresh produce, meat and dairy.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) warns that Covid-19 amplifies the risk of a global food price spike, and advises against protectionist measures to help prevent a food crisis. Some countries have already imposed export bans or quotas in response to the pandemic, including Russia and Kazakhstan for grain, and India and Vietnam for rice. Meanwhile, the Philippines and Egypt are among those countries stockpiling imported rice and wheat respectively. Governments must work together to develop a global policy to prevent food protectionism from becoming “the post-pandemic new normal", it said.
The European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) launches funding for agri-food startups affected by the pandemic. The bridge fund will provide support of between €200k and €500k for EU-based startups and scaleups that address one of the EIT’s focus areas: alternative proteins; sustainable agriculture; targeted nutrition; sustainable aquaculture; digital transformation of traceability; or circular food systems.
French yeast manufacturer Lesaffre says it is quadrupling the budget of its ECHO charity programme, which was launched at the beginning of 2019. The company, which is the world’s largest producer of yeast, says it also will donate sanitary equipment such as masks and financial support to French food banks and other charitable organisations, both in France and around the world.
The UK’s Food Standards Agency publishes guidance on best practices for working in the food manufacturing sector during the pandemic. Specific advice covers the safe use of gloves and personal protective equipment (PPE), staff training, stock management, and risk assessment and review.
Brazil’s food supply and statistics agency Conab says wheat stocks are set to hit a record low in the country as domestic demand for flour-based products like bread has surged during the Covid-19 outbreak, Reuters reports. Brazil is a net wheat importer, but despite increased imports, particularly from Argentina, Conab figures estimate its end-of-year stocks for 2020 will fall to their lowest level in history.
PepsiCo launches two direct-to-consumer websites where consumers can buy assortments of branded products, to tap into increased demand for foods and snacks that can be ordered online during the outbreak. Snacks.com offers products from the company’s more than 100 snack brands, while PantryShop.com offers packs featuring brands like Quaker, Tropicana, Gatorade and SunChips assembled to meet common demands linked to consumers’ at-home habits, such as working and exercising from home and homeschooling.
The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reports plummeting food commodity prices for the third month in a row, as logistical issues due to Covid-19 lead to significantly lower demand for many commodities. Sugar prices have been particularly hard hit, falling to a 13-year low – by 14.6% since March, when they fell even further. The FAO explained that lower crude oil prices had reduced demand for ethanol from sugarcane. Price indexes for vegetable oil, meat and dairy were also down significantly compared to the previous month. Meat and dairy sales in particular have been affected by restaurant and foodservice closures.
The world’s largest brewer AB InBev reports that its sales fell by nearly a third (32%) in April compared to a year earlier. This follows a first quarter when sales fell by 9.3% year-on-year as the pandemic started to spread. At-home drinking has failed to make up for lost sales in restaurants, bars and nightclubs, and some countries have also restricted alcohol sales, including in Mexico and South Africa.
Major US retailers start rationing meat purchases, as processing plants struggle to keep products on shelves – even as major facilities have started operating again after a presidential order to stay open. Some retailers have placed restrictions on the number of meat products that customers can purchase, while others have restricted quantities for certain cuts. According to a May 4 investor presentation from Tyson Foods, the nation’s biggest meat processing company, pork processing is down nearly 50%, and beef production is down by about 25%.
Germany-based meal kit company HelloFresh boosts its sales forecast for the year, reporting surging demand for its products during the pandemic. The company’s Q1 sales rose 66% compared to the same period last year, and it expects full-year revenue growth of 40-55%, up from its earlier forecast of 22-27%. The company operates in 12 markets, including the UK, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Germany.
Swiss-Irish bakery firm Aryzta details measures it has taken to cut costs during the crisis, including pausing production in three European bakeries and five in North America. It has also furloughed 30% of its staff and implemented pay cuts for its top executives. The company says the measures will save it about €50 million.
India’s capital Delhi imposes a 70% tax on retail sales of alcohol in an effort to deter large crowds at retail outlets. Consumers flocked to stores to buy alcohol on May 4 after the government eased lockdown restrictions for the first time in six weeks.
Reuters reports that alcohol sales tax is a significant contributor to state revenue in India, and many territories are running short of funds. The lockdown has not yet been fully lifted, and is set to run until May 17 in India.
Consumer watchdog organisation Foodwatch condemns French supermarkets for higher prices on large family-sized packs during the coronavirus outbreak. It said bulk-sized packaging was up to 29% more expensive per kilogram than smaller packs, for items across stores, from hamburger buns, to rice and granola bars. The Fédération du Commerce et de la Distribution responded by denying any intentional consumer deception. In addition, it highlighted that per-kilogram prices are clearly displayed in supermarkets. Since the Foodwatch report, several supermarkets have reduced their prices for large format products.
Kerry Group reports a 3.4% increase in revenue during the first quarter, but withdraws its 2020 financial guidance. It says it expects to revise its full-year earnings downward and to see sales take a bigger hit in the second quarter, as it feels the full impact of movement restrictions, on top of the lower demand in China and across foodservice channels that it experienced in Q1.
A recently closed Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Indiana reports that 890 of its 2,200 workers – about 40% – have tested positive for Covid-19. The number is about 700 more than reported when the plant initially closed, and local authorities say they expect it to increase still further, even as they work with the company to develop a plan to reopen, as ordered by President Trump.
President Trump orders US meat processing plants to stay open, as companies struggle to balance pressure to continue operating with employee safety. The move follows several high-profile plant closures after a large number of workers in the meatpacking sector contracted the virus, raising concerns of meat shortages in the United States. The White House said: “This action will further ensure that vitally important food processors are able to continue to operate safely and meet the consumer needs of the American people."
Trump suggested the order also could help protect companies from legal liability.
Mondelez International reports higher sales in developed markets like Europe and North America as consumers stock up on biscuits and chocolate, but lower sales in developing markets, including in Asia, where people in some countries have been unable to get to work due to strict lockdown measures. Overall, its revenues were up 2.6% compared to the prior year period. The company also withdrawn its full-year financial guidance due to ongoing uncertainty, but says it expects to “come out stronger with increased market share".
PepsiCo pulls its 2020 financial guidance, saying the Covid-19 crisis has resulted in too many uncertainties to be able to offer an accurate prediction for the year. The company has been struggling with lower sales of beverages at convenience stores and petrol stations, and this has been only partly offset by higher sales of foods like at-home breakfast items and snacks. The firm also announces its intention to invest in brands that have done well during the lockdown period, like its Quaker cereal brand.
The World Economic Forum releases a toolkit to help speed up the use of blockchain in international supply chains, which it says could accelerate economic recovery. The organisation says the current pandemic underlines the need for better supply chain integrity and certainty about product provenance, including in the food sector.
The World Health Organization says there could be as many as 10 million cases of Covid-19 across Africa within three to six months, after a sudden 40% rise in the number of cases on the continent over the past ten days to 28,000. The United Nations says even in a best-case scenario, Africa’s 1.3 billion people will need at least 74 million test kits and 30,000 ventilators this year. The continent’s most populous country, Nigeria, had only 350 ventilators before the pandemic, and it has bought around 100 more in recent weeks, but preparation efforts have been hampered by closed borders, a lack of medical staff and logistical problems in delivering essential supplies.
The Nigerian government releases grain from national reserves, including 100 truckloads of rice, to help ease the growing threat of food shortages. However, logistics firms say their fleets are operating at greatly reduced capacity in the midst of uncertainty about lockdown restrictions, and millers unable to get their milled rice to buyers.
UK compliance firm Bureau Veritas launches a Food Emergency Preparedness pack to help food businesses mitigate the most common risk factors of coronavirus throughout their supply chains. Among other measures, the pack highlights hygiene guidelines for food workers, controls where social distancing may not be possible, such as in food processing environments, advice for takeaways, and accepting contactless payments.
A University of Arkansas survey shows high levels of food insecurity across the US, with an average of 38.3% of respondents reporting moderate to high levels of food insecurity. More than 45% of those from Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky said they were food insecure, while Iowa had the lowest percentage of respondents reporting food insecurity, at 24.5 percent – still nearly 1 in 4 people.
Tyson Foods announces it is closing two of its pork plants in the United States, including its largest facility in Waterloo, Iowa after a growing number of employees called in sick with suspected Covid-19. The Waterloo plant employs 2,800 workers and nearly half of the county’s 374 confirmed cases have been linked to the facility.
Later on that same day, the company announces the closure of another facility at Logansport, Indiana for the same reason, which employs 2,200 workers. The company said all employees will be paid while the plants are closed, and will be tested for Covid-19.
The US Department of Agriculture increases by 40% its monthly emergency food benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The emergency allotments amount to about $2 billion per month, in addition to about $4.5 billion in benefits already provided to SNAP recipients across the United States.
April 21 The World Food Programme warns that Covid-19 could nearly double the number of people living with acute hunger worldwide by the end of the year, unless rapid action is taken. It wants to ensure that food assistance programmes are maintained to provide a lifeline to the millions of people at risk of hunger. Last year, it estimated that 135 million people worldwide suffered from acute food insecurity, and it now estimates that this number could rise by a further 130 million as a direct result of the economic impact of Covid-19.
Research conducted for the UK’s Food Standards Agency concludes that risk of consumers becoming infected with Covid-19 from food contact materials or food packaging is between ‘negligible’ and ‘very low’, meaning that at most, the risk is ‘very rare but cannot be excluded’. The researchers acknowledged that data related specifically to Covid-19 transmission routes are limited, but said the risk assessment would be used to inform business and consumer guidance during the pandemic.
The US Food and Drug Administration’s Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, Frank Yiannis, seeks to reassure the American public about the safety and resilience of the US food supply. He says the FDA and US Department of Agriculture are working with industry to monitor for potential shortages on a local and national level, but they have not yet identified any. The FDA also aims to repurpose food and ingredients that would normally be sold in bulk to restaurants and foodservice for direct-to-consumer sale at supermarkets.
“We cannot get through a crisis of this magnitude without effective public-private partnerships," he said.
The European Commission adopts additional measures to support the European agri-food sector, including increasing the advances of direct payments and rural development payments, and reducing the number of on-the-spot checks. Instead, it intends to use more advanced technologies – such as satellite images to check agricultural activity on the field – intended to reduce physical contact to respect confinement rules, and to make the most efficient use of resources.
The European Milk Board calls for EU-wide measures to protect the dairy industry, including voluntary production cuts across the region. Vice-President of the EMB, Sieta van Keimpema, said steep drops in prices and pouring away milk needed to be immediately addressed at an EU level, warning that if such measures were not implemented, "the collapse across Europe will be brutal".
Two days later, the UK’s National Farmers Union and dairy industry unite to call for similar measures in the UK, including asking the government to back a national production reduction scheme – and to engage the EU Commission to access market support measures.
US-based pork processor Smithfield Foods says it will close two processing plants in areas with a high number of Covid-19 cases after several employees tested positive for the virus. The company says it will pay employees to stay home over the next two weeks as essential staff carry out deep cleaning at the facilities.
Romanian farm workers arrive in the UK to help pick fruit and vegetables after a campaign to recruit British workers fails to attract sufficient interest. The UK farming industry was left with a shortfall of about 90,000 farm workers after borders were closed to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Although 35,000 British workers responded to an initial call for farm workers – about half of whom had lost their jobs due to the coronavirus – only 5,500 decided to be interviewed for a role.
Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots warns of a crisis along the food supply chain, from farmers who cannot afford feed or find buyers for meat and milk, to the restaurants and foodservice firms that would have bought their products – now forced to close. At least £100 million is needed to support the sector, he said.
A coalition of food businesses, including Nestlé, Unilever, PepsiCo and Olam, has joined with academics, farming associations, NGOs and other industry groups in a Call to Action for world leaders to avert a global food security crisis. The Food and Land Use Coalition urges the maintenance of global trade, increased access to food for the most vulnerable, and investment in sustainable, resilient food systems to “sow seeds of recovery for people and planet".
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization introduces a toolkit to help with food security policymaking in view of the outbreak, based on its Food and Agriculture Policy Decision Analysis (FAPDA) database, which was set up to collect countries’ food policies after the global food price shocks of 2008.
Its general principles include avoiding food export bans and improving social protection for the most vulnerable to help keep food supply chains alive despite travel and health-related disruptions. However, it acknowledges that solutions many need to be tailor-made depending on the region to ensure food security for all.
Foodwatch calls on the European Commission to ensure food safety regulations are not relaxed in light of the pandemic. The Commission introduced a temporary regulation on March 30 intended to make concessions for supply chain and control system disruptions, but the consumer protection watchdog claims the regulation will weaken consumer protection.
“This is not the time for the quality or quantity of food inspections to be watered down," it said.
The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) asks for government financial support to ensure continued milk supply once social distancing measures are eased. Widespread closures in the foodservice sector have led to a steep decline in milk demand, and RABDF suggests that farmers will be forced to cull cattle as a result, leading to problems in the beef supply chain as well.
In the US, dairy trade groups also call for government assistance. The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and National Milk Producers Association (NMPA), estimating that supply exceeds demand by at least 10%.
Wuhan, the Chinese city of 11 million people at the original epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic, ends its lockdown after 76 days, although some restrictions remain in place.
The Washington Post reports at least four US supermarket workers have died with coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic, from Trader Joe’s, Giant and Walmart stores in Illinois, New York and Maryland. With dozens of supermarket workers having tested positive for the virus in recent weeks, the country’s two largest food retail employers, Walmart and Kroger, have started testing employees’ temperatures at the beginning of shifts, and providing hand sanitiser, gloves and masks. Both stores are looking to hire thousands of temporary workers – 150,000 at Walmart and 10,000 at Kroger – to keep up with spiking demand.
Governments have ordered mass quarantines affecting more than a third of the world’s population. Some of the largest and strictest measures are in place in China, Denmark, El Salvador, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, and Spain in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) unlocks €1.6 billion of financing for the agrifood sector to help improve its resilience during the outbreak. The funding aims to support private businesses along the supply chain, including those in food, bio-based materials and bioenergy. Loans are expected to range from €15 million to €200 million and will be targeted to support environmental protection and natural resource efficiency, renewable energy, innovation, competitiveness, and energy efficiency.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says world food prices fell sharply in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic and a drop in oil prices as governments prepare for an expected economic slowdown. Sugar prices were hardest hit, falling 19.1% from the previous month, with lower out-of-home consumption a major cause. Vegetable oil prices and dairy prices also declined. "The price drops are largely driven by demand factors, not supply, and the demand factors are influenced by ever-more deteriorating economic prospects," said FAO Senior Economist Abdolreza Abbassian.
Rice prices, on the other hand, rose for the third consecutive month on reports of stockpiling and potential export bans. The FAO also reports near-record wheat production, which it says could help shield global food markets, despite localised disruptions in some regions, mainly due to logistical issues.
The UK’s Food and Drink Federation announces a 16-week partnership with the recruitment app Syft to help the food and beverage industry meet demand. With hundreds of thousands of workers from other industries suddenly finding their jobs at risk, the partnership aims to move as many as possible into food and beverage sector employment, while easing staffing pressure and workload in the industry.
US meat processor Tyson Foods says it will pay $60 million in bonuses to its frontline staff, including truckers and factory employees who have continued to work during the crisis. The bonus of $500 per employee will be paid in the first week of July, the company said. The company has also pledged $13 million worth of community grants and products to non-profit organisations in communities where Tyson plants are located.
Ingredient suppliers Roquette and Cargill donate disinfecting alcohol solutions to European healthcare institutions. French pea protein specialist Roquette modified a production line at a pilot plant to make 5,000 litres of hydro-alcoholic disinfectant per week, which it will provide for free to around 20 healthcare facilities in the north of France.
Cargill, which makes alcohol for the drinks and health industry, made its first donation of 60,000 litres of disinfecting alcohol to the Dutch government in March to help relieve shortages in hospitals and medical centres. It says it is exploring ways to help other European governments through its network of European factories.
Industry organisations Food Industry Asia (FIA) and the ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance (AFBA) call on governments to ensure unhindered supply of food and drink products across the region.
AFBA president Abdul Halim Saim said, “We are starting to see disruptions in the food supply chain, such as bottlenecks, when transporting food. Each country should review their existing food security policy as more needs to be done. Policy makers should involve the food and beverage sector in the process."
Apart from its important role in food security, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is responsible for about 17% of the region’s GDP and employs about 34% of its workforce, according to the AFBA.
Vietnam aims to stockpile 190,000 tonnes of rice by June 15 to ensure enough the country has enough food during the outbreak. The country is the world’s third-largest exporter of rice behind Thailand and India, and the prime minister has ordered the suspension of new rice export contracts, at least until the end of March. In 2019, Vietnam put 200,000 tonnes of rice in storage for the entire year.
The US Food and Drug Administration announces it will provide temporary flexibility regarding nutrition labelling on packaged food during the pandemic. Food manufacturers will be able to sell food without a Nutrition Facts panel as long as it does not make any health claims, and lists allergens, net quantity and the manufacturer’s details, among other stipulations.
Bakeronline in conjunction with Puratos, which specialises in bakery and confectionery ingredients, launch a free service to help bakers set up an online webshop. The initiative aims to help bakers retain custom amid social distancing, allowing customers to place orders and pay online before picking up goods from the bakery at a specified time.
The United States overtakes China to become the country with the most confirmed coronavirus cases.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation warns that protectionist measures like tariffs and trade barriers could lead to food shortages and price rises, while restrictions on workers’ movements could also cause shortages of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially in countries that rely heavily on imported produce.
UK supermarkets are to be given access to a government database to help them prioritise deliveries to vulnerable people who have been ordered to stay at home. UK food delivery services have been overwhelmed with order requests, and many are booked out for over a week, leading to the government’s decision to help supermarkets prioritise the elderly and other vulnerable groups.
The UK’s Food Standards Agency publishes guidance for industry to help them respond to the outbreak. The advice covers good hygiene practice, management of employee sickness, and social distancing for specific food business settings.
Kazakhstan has banned exports of wheat flour, as well as carrots, sugar and potatoes, until April 15. The country is one of the world’s biggest exporters of wheat flour, sparking concerns that national protectionist measures could lead to food shortages in some countries. The Kazakh millers’ union since has condemned the measure, saying there are no local wheat flour shortages, and that it makes little sense to clamp down on flour exports when the country continues to trade freely in wheat.
Russia, the world’s largest wheat exporter, bans all grain exports for 10 days due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The government has since proposed a grain export quota for wheat, corn, barley and rye from April to June to help stabilise the domestic market.
A lack of trust among consumers has prompted stockpiling efforts across the UK, according to Nicholas Carroll, Associate Director of Retail at Mintel. He says supermarkets must ‘flatten the curve’ to ensure supply.
As early as late February retailers were bracing themselves for a spike in demand and even ahead of the measures introduced last week regarding social isolation, some 10% of shoppers had stockpiled goods according to Mintel’s latest data (consumers questioned on 13th March). As the situation develops and individuals are being forced to spend longer indoors, the focus is moving to health and fresh categories.
The current impact has been indiscriminate, affects the largest chain and local businesses equally, with all struggling to fulfil the heightened demand. Enforcing of limits on select lines was a required step by retailers. In the same way scientific experts have talked about the need to ‘flatten the curve’ regarding the outbreak, this is what retailers are having to do in terms of demand to ensure supply chains have enough time to react and crucially all can have access to the products they need. This needs to be supported by a sustained campaign of calming shoppers. Clearly, the continued ‘stockpiling’ is coming from a lack of trust that products will be available long-term, and retailers need to reinforce the point that there is enough to support the nation in this difficult time.
There has been an unprecedented demand within the grocery sector in the recent weeks, and whilst retailers are reacting as quick as they can to this – the mass closure of the foodservice sector in the UK will only place further demands on the in-home grocery sector. There is, therefore, a need for foodservice to play its part in helping to fulfil the supply of food and drink to consumers.
Packaged food and meat companies including General Mills, Tyson Foods, Mondelez International, Kraft Heinz and Campbell Soup have seen sales growth of 10-20% over the past month, as American consumers are stocking up on shelf-stable items and comfort foods. Meat, potatoes, milk and snack foods like popcorn, crisps and pretzels are among the most in-demand products, according to Nielsen data.
Rabobank has analysed the immediate impacts from the coronavirus on both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in USA. The recent lockdowns and closures of bars and restaurants is understandably hurting the alcohol industry, however stocking up at grocery stores in bolstering other drink sectors.
It’s a trying time for alcohol – whereas in many states bars, pubs and nightclubs have closed, many restaurants remain open for takeaway and delivery. In some states restaurants have been able to add alcohol to their delivery menu, but even with this allowance, on-premise alcohol has taken a huge hit.
Rabobank predicts that if the ban on sit-down dining lasts 2 months, the industry could see losses of $15-$20 billion in alcohol alone. Off-premise on the other hand is seeing growth in sales as consumers stock up for isolation. Shoppers are particularly looking at larger quantities and lower-priced products, especially from e-commerce channels. Delivery platform Drizly has stated their sales from new customers are up 500% compared to just a week ago and wine.com echoes this as they saw sales triple two weeks ago.
FoodDrinkEurope warns that border controls in the EU are disrupting food supplies, and calls on the European Commission to do more to ensure food security.
“We welcome the recent Commission guidelines on border management as a good first step. Despite these guidelines, however, we continue to face severe disruptions," the trade association said.
Recommended measures include:
-Safeguarding the flow of agricultural products, packaging materials, and manufactured foods and drinks across European borders.
-Finding solutions to manage labour shortages caused by travel restrictions.
-Monitoring the price of raw materials and transport, as well as unfair trading practices.
In addition, it urges countries and institutions to prepare contingency plans to allow for a possible shortage of workers.
Global food supplement chain Holland and Barrett imposes limits on products intended to boost immunity amid panic buying. It also put in place a one-hour shopping window dedicated to its most vulnerable customers.
UK farming organisations issue an urgent call for British people to work on farms amid a growing worker shortage due to travel restrictions. About 70,000 seasonal workers go to the UK each year to pick fruits and vegetables. Increased border controls combined with coronavirus-related clampdowns on travel have led to a low number of farm workers just as UK consumers are stockpiling food.
Border restrictions imposed by more than a dozen EU countries, in response to the coronavirus outbreak, are disrupting food supplies, said representatives of the industry and farmers. A joint statement, issued by FoodDrinkEurope, the trading body for the European food manufacturing industry, Copa-Cogeca, which represents farmers, and CELCAA, the EU umbrella association for trading companies in the food and commodities sectors, said that because of these measures, “delays and disruption at country borders have been observed for the delivery of certain agricultural and manufactured products, as well as packaging materials."
The European Commission and EU transport ministers agree to establish “green corridors" for essential freight moving between Member States, including food.
China reports a major milestone in its tackling of the crisis: no new domestic cases for the first time since the outbreak was identified in December. More than 81,000 cases have been confirmed in China over the past three months. The country continues to report cases contracted elsewhere, which have been imported to the mainland, and these have now outnumbered locally contracted cases for several days.
Cargill says disruptions to its supply chains have been limited, and it has put in additional measures to ensure its employees’ safety so they can keep its major production facilities open. These include prohibiting international travel and limiting domestic travel, offering shift flexibility and additional cleaning and sanitising procedures.
The US Food and Drug Administration says it will reduce safety inspections of US food facilities to protect food firms and FDA staff. Inspections will only go ahead if they are considered “mission critical". The statement follows its previous announcement that the agency would postpone most foreign facility inspections through to the end of April.
The World Health Organization urges Southeast Asian countries to “do more, and urgently" to contain the virus. Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, says continued efforts to detect, test, treat, isolate and trace contacts are of critical importance, as are simple public health measures like washing hands, social distancing, and covering coughs and sneezes.
On this video, Martin D'Agostino, virology section manager at Campden BRI, answers some of the key questions bakers and other food suppliers have regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a global pandemic.
The UK government asks supermarkets to increase home delivery services to help those in self-isolation maintain access to food.
The United States’ largest meat processor, Tyson Foods, says the virus has disrupted meat shipments to China. It is the latest to implement travel restrictions for its employees due to the outbreak, including suspending all international travel from the US, and restricting the number of employees attending large events and conferences.
Other multinationals have taken similar measures, including Nestlé and Cargill.
Campbell’s Soup announces it will increase production of canned soup in response to increased demand as consumers stockpile shelf-stable foods.
In regions across the world, from Australia to Europe, the United States to Asia, consumers have been stockpiling dried goods, frozen foods and shelf-stable products in response to the outbreak – as well as hand sanitiser and other household essentials. Some supermarkets, including Waitrose and Tesco in the UK, have started rationing certain products as a result.
March 2, 2020
New Hope Network announces that Natural Products Expo West is to be postponed for the first time in nearly four decades.
Due to be held on March 3-7 in Anaheim, California, with an expected attendance of more than 85,000, several major exhibitors had already pulled out of the event, including KIND Bar, Whole Foods and Vital Farms. On March 1, New Hope had said it intended to go ahead with the show, despite expecting a 40-60% drop in attendance. With attendees from nearly 100 countries, many had already arrived in California, but the organisers decided postponement was the best course of action to prevent potential further spread of the virus.
February 28, 2020
US-based FMI, the Food Industry Association, releases a “Coronavirus Preparedness Checklist" for the food industry.
“FMI understands that a pandemic, if it develops, will necessitate engagement across a host of areas including health care, store operations, supply chain, food safety, workforce, emergency management and media," it said in a statement.
February 27, 2020
New Zealand dairy cooperative Fonterra reaffirms its 2020 forecast despite the outbreak. Fonterra is the world’s biggest dairy company and New Zealand is the biggest exporter of dairy products to China. In a statement, Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell said there were “potential significant risks" to the business from COVID-19, but it had already contracted a high percentage of the financial year’s milk supply, helping it to manage the impact.
“There has been a slow-down in processing of containers at ports and we are managing the flow of our product into China carefully to avoid congestion," he said. “Currently, our product is continuing to be cleared by customs and quarantine officials."
He added that many restaurants were closed because of restricted movement within China, which was having a major impact on its foodservice customers.
February 26, 2020
Danone warns its first quarter earnings are likely to take a €100 million hit, mainly from its Mizone water business, which has a manufacturing facility that remains closed in Wuhan, China.
Danone generates about 10% of its overall sales in China, and about 30% of its infant nutrition sales. The company lowered its sales growth target for 2020 to 2-4% from 4-5%.
February 24, 2020
Italy’s food industry trade association, Federalimentare, issues a warning that the closure of northern Italy could impose a brake on the region’s manufacturing sector, with the food industry particularly at risk.
The association’s president, Ivano Vacondio, said disruption caused by the outbreak would have a disproportionate effect on country’s economy as a whole. The northern regions of Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia Romagna together account for 41% of Italy’s GDP, and represented 52% of the Italian food sector’s production in 2018.
February 24, 2020
The Coca-Cola Company highlights potential disruption to supply of non-nutritive sweeteners in its annual report.
“As a result of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, beginning in January 2020, our suppliers in China have experienced some delays in the production and export of these ingredients," it said. “We have initiated contingency supply plans and do not foresee a short-term impact due to these delays. However, we may see tighter supplies of some of these ingredients in the longer term should production or export operations in China deteriorate."
January 30, 2020
The World Health Organization declares the virus a global health emergency.
January 30, 2020
Mondelez International says the local Beijing government has asked it to keep two of its four manufacturing plants in China closed, in an effort to prevent further spread of the virus. The company’s CEO Dirk van de Put said in an earnings call that the company had already implemented voluntary travel restrictions on its employees, both within China and international travel to China. Its sales in the country account for about 4.5% of the company’s annual revenues.
January 28, 2020
CEO of the US spices and seasonings specialist McCormick & Company, Lawrence Kurzius, says coronavirus is likely to affect its in-China sales. The company has three manufacturing facilities in the country, including one that remains closed in Wuhan where the virus originated. McCormick estimates that about 7.5% of its business is reliant on China.
January 24, 2020
First confirmed case announced in France, also marking the first case in Europe.
January 21, 2020
First confirmed case announced in the United States.
December 31, 2019
COVID-19 outbreak is first identified in Wuhan, China.
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