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CPMA panel: Pandemic forces global supply chain changes

Panelists from top from left, Philippe Binard; John Anderson; Nelli Hajdu; bottom from left Hans Maurer; Robert Guenther.

Much like consumers, produce companies around the globe will be more cautious and more focused on local than before the pandemic.

In a CPMA Fresh Week BB #:153602 education session April 13, speakers from around the globe told what changes they expect to continue or change permanently.

“The appetite for risk among importers and exporters will change because life has become so much less predictable,” said Hans Maurer, Director Strategy & Research for United Fresh New Zealand. “And the labor problem has gotten much worse.”

Philippe Binard, General Delegate, Freshfel Europe, said, “In Europe, we’re going to focus more on local, and that may affect the international market.”

Maurer agreed, saying even within a country, he expects more local production everywhere to cut the risk of moving product in unpredictable times.

The retail vs. foodservice divide continues, as foodservice business has not come close to where it was before the global pandemic, said Robert Guenther, Senior Vice President, Public Policy for United Fresh Produce Association BB #:145458.

“We’re seeing growers planting less,” because of the uncertainty in foodservice, he said.

Prior to COVID-19, the retail and foodservice produce industries didn’t communicate much, Guenther said, so when foodservice business largely shut down last spring, it wasn’t easy to transition that volume to retail, and it was hard to explain that to government authorities.

He said it’s gotten better, but they remain distinctive channels.

Regarding how consumers have changed, Nelli Hajdu, Secretary General for Freshfel, said there’s a greater focus on food safety and hygiene.

But one of the good things to come out of the pandemic, said John Anderson, Chairman, CEO & Managing Partner for Oppy, BB #:116424 is the awareness of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet can be preventative for many health issues, including COVID-19.

“We saw this as citrus and kiwifruit sales went up because people became more aware,” he said.

Binard said as the world recovers from the pandemic, fresh produce has an opportunity to shine.

“We have all the tools now to raise consumption with a plant-based focus,” he said.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services