Nobody can ignore the fact that Coronavirus, or Covid-19, has taken over the news on a global basis. It seems to be affecting everything from the travel industry and stock markets to supermarket shelves and sporting events - sometimes for very irrational reasons, especially if you produce a particular brand of beer… But how is it likely to affect the food manufacturing industry as a whole?
Panic buying and stockpiling
Well this could be a good thing for some manufacturers with a massive rise in demand for dried, tinned and frozen goods – apparently a third of shoppers are already starting to stock-pile food as well as other items such as loo roll, hand gel and paracetamol. In the short term, this would provide a boost for manufacturers but in the long term, once this has all blown over, it will conversely mean a massive decrease in demand.
Remote working and self-isolation
Well this is fine if you work in an office and can remote desktop. But what are factory workers meant to do? And who is actually going to produce the food if everyone is doing the responsible thing and staying at home?
Manufacturers, especially those who are labour intensive, might be particularly affected. One positive note here though is that The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has just announced in his first budget that statutory sick pay will be paid to all those that self-isolate and be able to claim from the first day, not after a week. And those companies who have been able to invest in modern techniques and equipment may well find themselves stealing a march on their competitors.
Supply chain pressures
With irregular footfall and panic buying creating complex problems for supply chains, companies are having to make contingency plans. Bottlenecks are growing where manufacturers are near or at storage capacity due to being unable to ship their products to certain countries, such as China. With limited storage space, a lot of these are looking for alternative customers with a sense of urgency, which will no doubt mean lower profits. Likewise, some companies are experiencing shortages from their suppliers and so are having to find alternatives as well as trying to stock-pile themselves.
Food industry events
As we all know, shows, exhibitions and events are vital to the food manufacturing industry as a whole. Many, such as Foodex Japan and Vegan Expo in Prague have simply been cancelled, others like Food Expo Greece and Expo West in California have moved their dates. A lot have had big name exhibitors pull out and I’m sure that all will be experiencing lower attendances - and this will naturally result in a lot less business being done.
A real problem close to home
People are suddenly waking up to the fact that what was once a far-away problem, is now a very real issue for all of us. It seems though that as big a problem as the virus is in itself, is the misinformation and scare mongering going on in the media. It’s all about new infections and death rates and ignores the fact it is now slowly clearing up China and that by far and wide the majority of infected people have survived – significantly more people die from common or garden flu!
My daughter recently returned from Northern Italy and had to self-isolate whilst awaiting her test results - which were thankfully negative. We are lucky at b3 jobs since most of our work is conducted remotely anyway. Everyone is set up to work from home so business can carry on as usual - as long as candidates can go to interviews and clients will be there to see them of course!