The declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic is creating heightened concern from employers on how to handle a potential outbreak. For many manufacturers and food processors, the concern is multi-faceted: how to prepare for and potentially handle such an illness in the event that it were to affect your workforce and the potential impact on your business’s supply chain.
Here are a few helpful resources regarding COVID-19’s effect on supply chain and distribution:
Supply chain & trucking
To facilitate the movement of critical goods at the direction of Governor Evers, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation may issue permits for the transportation of inventory to supply grocery retailers impacted by the COVID19 pandemic. Several other Midwestern states are following suit. Click here for details on the WI overweight permit process.
In addition, an up-to-date resource for nationwide information regarding rest stop access, overweight permits and CDL extensions is the American Trucking Association’s website.
Access to International Shipping Containers
For manufacturers involved in exports, access to shipping containers may be limited. According to HIS Markit, China is the source of 65 percent of trans-Pacific containerized imports to the US. The country is just restarting production following the COVID-19 outbreak. With fewer shipments coming from China, US food exporters will have limited access to shipping containers to export products.
Agricultural Production and Food Processing
FDA suspends Foreign Inspections: Many food processors source ingredients from outside the US. On March 10, 2020, the FDA announced that they are postponing most foreign inspections through April, effective immediately. Inspections outside the U.S. deemed mission-critical will still be considered on a case-by-case basis. However, in the interim, they will employ additional tools to ensure the safety of products imported to the U.S., which have proved effective in the past.
On March 17, 2020, the USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach and USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Mindy Brashears sent a letter to stakeholders reassuring them that APHIS, AMS, and FSIS are rising to meet the challenges associated with COVID-19
Meat, poultry, and processed egg inspection services continue as normal.