Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Produce industry highlights importance of facing supply chain issues

December 8, 2021  By Fruit and Vegetable

In early November, a joint statement was released on behalf of North America’s fresh produce industry. Signatories, including the Canadian Horticultural Council and provincial and national produce marketing associations, are calling for urgent government action to address ongoing supply chain disruptions with impacts to our food systems, economies, and ultimately individuals and families across the continent and around the globe.

The statement notes that the COVID-19 global pandemic has created unprecedented public health, economic, and logistical challenges for communities and supply chains around the world. The fresh fruit and vegetable industry has been no exception. Substantial increases in costs and delays along the supply chain threaten food security and the long-term economic viability of the North American fresh produce sector. The statement adds that these costs cannot be fully borne by the industry and will ultimately be passed to consumers.

Examples provided in the statement of ongoing supply chain disruptions include:

  • Crippling port congestion;
  • Delays and exploding costs in container shipping;
  • Cascading effects of inconsistent product delivery;
  • Continuing labour shortages across the supply chain;
  • Growing input shortages; and
  • Stockpiling of product by consumers.

In the early days of the pandemic, provincial and national governments took swift action to invest in food systems and work together to keep supply chains moving. The current situation echoes some of the challenges seen in the spring of 2020, with the added complications of heavier border traffic, consumer purchasing habits that have been significantly increased over the course of the pandemic, and government support programs that are winding down or have ended.

It is imperative that governments work urgently with all parts of the supply chain to mitigate the serious threats of food insecurity and food shortages. These multi-faceted problems will not be resolved overnight and delays in course correction are likely to compound and further complicate the situation.

Without multilateral engagement to find solutions, these issues will create long lasting impacts to the detriment of all North American economies, including bankruptcies, legal disputes, industry consolidation, inflation and inaccessible food supplies. The necessity of addressing these challenges now cannot be understated.

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