How can we address the food production shortages threatening to engulf Europe in the path of Covid 19?
An article by Thomson Reuters reports that fresh produce is set to be more scarce across Europe as Coronavirus strikes. Nick Kightley, ETI's Strategic Lead, Food and Farming, looks at what this could mean in practice
Logistics could be severely threatened or even grind to a halt in some countries and borders in the coming days. State action is essential if land and air freight is to be available. Kenya and South Africa are already reporting huge increases in per kilo cost of air freight and some routes are completely closed
Perfectly good food products in fields and packing facilities risk going to waste if logistics and workers are in short supply and fresh produce supplies to consumers are at risk of disruption, with consequent risks in terms of population health and social instability. Supply chains of migrant workers from North Africa and Eastern Europe, critical to move products, also seem likely to be disrupted.
So can local labour recruitment fill these labour gaps? And what terms and conditions would make farm work attractive to local labour in Spain, Italy, France, Germany and the UK? Can farmers increase daily rates? And will buyers accept the higher prices? Almost certainly.
Can farmers increase daily rates? Will buyers accept the higher prices? Almost certainly.
Transparent and clear communication to consumers about what is currently lacking is urgently needed to stabilize behaviours. Consumers also need to be informed of the true cost of production and supply – empty shelves drive panic buying, waste, shortages and social unrest.
Beyond voluntary action, stricter rationing and shopping curfews may be further down the line. Consumers seem willing to pay almost anything right now to buy any product seeming to be at threat, so price is the ultimate mechanism to regulate panic buying. But,this leaves the most vulnerable the worst off.
Price is the ultimate mechanism to regulate panic buying, but leaves the most vulnerable the worst off
Governments need to lead on removing both the physical barriers to moving products, and the employment barriers which make work less attractive to local workers. These supply chain conversations need to start now – from field to frontier.
Social dialogue needs to start in every business, from today - Every business needs a worker representative and worker forum from today
Regular worker-management dialogue is essential to maintain co-operation at this time. Social dialogue needs to start in every business from today, with worker representatives and worker forums to allownew work patters, terms of employment and other Covid-19 contingencies to be fairly discussed and implemented immediately.
Workers and management need each other to run a business. We do not need a global crisis like Covid-19 to understand this.