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How the Food Industry Evolved to Adapt to the Pandemic


For almost a full year now, the world’s economy and the industries that drive it have been struggling to adapt to new restrictions, regulations, and demands due to COVID-19. The virus along with lockdowns, work from home orders, and safety measures have taken a huge, long-term toll on the day-to-day operations of the food industry’s supply chain. The backlash is increasingly felt on all levels. With no signs of resolution any time soon, the food industry has begun to develop new strategies in order to keep things moving.


Rapid Change with Drastic Effects

At the beginning of the pandemic, the effects on shipping containers were felt immediately. As described in an article from Bayer, “initially in China, where stringent quarantine measures prevented workers from unloading and reloading containers. The number of containers leaving Shanghai dropped by 25% in February, which had a knock-on effect of causing record low levels of available containers in other ports around the world. With Brazilian coffee sellers and Canadian lentil exporters struggling to secure the containers needed, trade began to seize up.” Furthermore, when the industry saw a rapid decline in refrigerated containers, consumer demand for fresh, healthy foods and supplements increased. The pressure to deliver was, and still is, on.


To combat this shortage and meet the demand, two things began to happen.

In the spring, many food shippers turned to cross-border collaboration that relied on rail and trucking companies as well as shipping smaller quantities. Although this was a viable response to container shortage and keeping the food supply moving, it came at a premium price that food shippers were not used to. It also resulted in more food stock spoiling and fewer non-local items available in the grocery stores.

Finding that ground shipping did not solve all the issues, food shippers have also turned to traditional reefer ships. Typically requiring high fuel costs to run, therefore not being used to transport produce, this industry had seen a drastic decline in the last decade until the pandemic turned things around. From an article with Rotterdam Fruit Wharf manager Peter Van De Laar by Hellenic Shipping News, Peter states that “We used to handle three of this kind of ship a week. Currently, almost all fruit is transported in reefer containers. We are the only terminal in Rotterdam that is still properly equipped to receive conventional reefer ships. No one else has a cold store right on the waterfront like we do.” It seems both solutions were short term answers.


The Long Road Ahead


Certainly, being a turbulent time for the food industry, the hope is that this period will help supply chains across the world become more flexible in the future. As container supply continues to improve, the increase of more pre-packaged produce is likely, while a decline in foods from around the globe may persist for years to come.

Although, no one can know for sure what the future holds, that’s why it’s important that we do our best to be prepared. Having a trustworthy and reliable logistics partner can help you do just that. Here at ClearFreight, we are constantly doing our best to plan for the future so we can better serve our customers’ logistics needs. Contact us today to see how we can help you prepare for the future and strengthen your company’s supply chain

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