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Fix broken food supply chain

22 May 2020 / 12:22 H.

ABOUT RM10 million worth of frozen fish is stuck in Port Klang while sea food prices are going through the roof in markets.

The National Fishermen’s Association is pushing the authorities for faster clearance of these perishable items. It remains to be seen if they share this sense of urgency.

However, the suppliers’ woes extend beyond the port as there is a breakdown in the distribution chain. With operations almost crippled at wholesale markets due to shortage of manpower, consumers are not getting enough supply of seafood as well as fresh vegetables.

The fragility of our food supply chain was exposed in April when prices of greens soared after the movement control order disrupted supply from the farms in Cameron Highlands to consumers all over the country.

Farmers sold their vegetables at rock-bottom prices as well as donated them but a lot of leftovers were discarded. That led to complaints of food dumping.

In other countries too, dairy farmers poured surplus milk down the drain as the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on their supply chain. Two similar factors were at play. Demand for dairy products plunged with the closure of restaurants, offices, hotels, schools and coffee shops. Dairy factories and milk processing plants were also drastically affected by the shortage of workers.

Tyson Foods, one of the biggest meat processors in the US, warned that “the food supply chain is breaking” in a full-page advertisement published by the New York Times. “Millions of animals – chickens, pigs and cattle – will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities,” it said.

We need to re-evaluate and better coordinate our food supply chain. If the snag is at the point of wholesalers, then distribution needs to be rerouted to bypass them.

According to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the food chain supply in Southeast Asia was already at risk before the pandemic. These latest developments only brought a sense of urgency to the problems at hand.

Read this story on our iPaper:

Fix broken food supply chain

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