Govts must ensure unhindered F&B production, supply during lockdowns to contain Covid-19


Governments across Asia are urged to ensure unhindered production and supply of food and beverages (F&B) as they implement nationwide lockdowns and border restrictions to contain the outbreak of Covid-19. – File photo

KUCHING: Governments across Asia are urged to ensure unhindered production and supply of food and beverages (F&B) as they implement nationwide lockdowns and border restrictions to contain the outbreak of Covid-19.

In making such call today, Food Industry Asia (FIA) and Asean Food and Beverage Alliance (AFBA) said rapidly-developing countries in Asia especially across Asean already faced significant food security challenges.

“And current measures in containing Covid-19 that directly and indirectly impact the agri-food supply chain will only place further stress on food value chains,” said a joint media statement by FIA and AFBA yesterday.

They pointed out that if governments across the region put in place policies that hindered production across supply chains as well as trade barriers, this could lead to regional food shortages, especially when looking across the world and seeing the continued but unnecessary panic buying behaviour.

FIA and AFBA also requested governments in the region to recognise the continued production and supply of food as an essential product and service.

“As more countries in the region tighten border access and restrict the movement of non-essential goods, the categorisation of all food and beverages must remain as essential to ensure a continuous food supply.

“The availability of workers to support production is critical with the necessity of all industry players to reinforce efforts to keep employees safe and healthy,” they pointed out.

FIA and AFBA said this was especially critical as the food supply chain “is a complex web that involves producers, agricultural inputs, transportation, other logistics, availability of workers and so much more”.

Constraints in any one area will have significant knock-on effects throughout country and regional supply chains, they cautioned.

While AFBA and FIA recognised the need for the Malaysian government to take extraordinary and unprecedented measures to protect its population from Covid-19, the issue at hand was the delay and disruption of manufactured food and beverage products, ingredients, raw materials, and packaging for domestic consumption and for exports, pointed out the statement.

Significant delays in manufacturing and distribution would slow down the entire food supply chain and effectively contribute to a shortage of essential goods, said AFBA and FIA.

“At the same time, restrictions on the movement of workers to and from food manufacturing facilities is hampering the production of food and beverage products needed to meet consumer demand, which is heightened in the face of this changing environment.

“The key role that the Malaysian government needs to play to ensure a stable food supply is ensuring that the manufacturing of food and beverage products, ingredients and other raw materials, as well as distribution by the retail sector, can continue uninterrupted.

“They also need to ensure that travel restrictions including border management controls do not result in the disruption of food supply chains,” said the statement.

AFBA and FIA stressed that it is important for the Malaysian government to assure consumers that they would have access to essential food.

This, they said, could be achieved by maintaining stable food production, and access to workers, agricultural supply lines, transportation and logistics during this time of crisis.

According to the statement, Asean’s food value chain is not only crucial for ensuring food security, but also a major driver of gross domestic product (GDP) and employment in the region.

“In terms of GDP, the food value chain contributes around US$500 billion of economic output, which is around 17 per cent of Asean’s total GDP. The share of jobs is even higher, accounting for 34 per cent of the total labour force,” added AFBA and FIA.