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How resilient food supply chains buttress new forms of demand

02/04/2020 By Ben Eastick in News & updates Distribution, Sourcing

As the nation comes to terms with the government’s social distancing measures, we explain the measures built into food supply chains to ensure they are resilient to fluctuating levels of demand.  

How COVID-19 has affected businesses

In a public address to the nation last Monday, Boris Johnson announced new restrictions on peoples’ movements, effectively placing the UK on lockdown. To cope with this, some businesses across the UK have pivoted their business propositions. In the food production industry, for instance, some industrial producers have moved towards direct-to-consumer business models, turning outlets that were previously wholesale into food retailers.

Not only has the government’s response to COVID-19 altered the offerings of some businesses, it has also changed the way almost all now operate. At Ragus, for example, all except essential production team workers are now working from home. Tools such as Zoom, Slack and WhatsApp mean this shift is achieved with no disruption, allowing companies to carry on as normal.

But working from home also brings new challenges. Employee health and safety is imperative in this current climate, particularly mental health. The same technologies that we use to work can also help to address this, with online yoga classes and virtual quizzes serving as prominent evidence of this trend.

From raw materials to finished products, delivery drivers around the world keep food supply chains flowing. 

Supply chains remain resilient and robust

One thing that has not changed has been the resilience of the UK’s food supply chains. In many ways, it is business as usual. All ports remain open to allow the transportation of goods from abroad. In fact ferries are now only transporting freight rather than passengers as a result of the restrictions on the movement of people. Internal transportation networks continue to operate in the UK, but with added protocols.

This could not be achieved without the hard work and persistence of growers, producers, delivery drivers and logistics teams. These ‘hidden heroes’ ensure that products continue to flow through our food supply chains and into supermarkets and shops. This is unlikely to change as the lockdown continues.

How do supply chains affect the sugar market?

With supply chains fully operational, there has been no marked effect on the market through lack of supplies or deliveries. Demand for food products has increased, and this demand may seem heightened because there is more activity happening in a narrower stream of channels.

For instance, March was the busiest month on record for the UK’s supermarkets, as consumers stockpiled food. Spikes such as these are symptoms of worry and misunderstanding of the stability of supply chains. The spike might have disrupted the availability of products in the short term, but it does not affect the flow of products in the long term.

In terms of sugar, not only do many manufacturers have several months’ worth of sugar in reserve at any one time, but the UK and Europe’s sugar beet harvest has now ended. The sugar from this is now sitting in industrial holding tanks, ready to be used. As a result, beet growers in the UK and Europe will now turn their attention to planting and drilling, ready for October.

A situation as unprecedented as the COVID-19 outbreak was always bound to alter the day-to-day operations of businesses in all sectors. One thing that remains the same, however, is the resilience of the UK’s food supply chains and their ability keep pace with consumer demand.

Ragus manufactures an extensive range of pure sugars and syrups, using the latest logistics to ensure all customer orders are delivered on-time and in-full. To learn more about our products, please contact our Customer Services Team. To see more sugar news and updates, continue browsing SUGARTALK and follow Ragus on LinkedIn. 

Ben Eastick

A board member and co-leader of the business, Ben is responsible for our marketing strategy and its execution by the agency team he leads and is the guardian of our corporate brand vision. He also manages key customers and distributors.

In 2005, he took on the role of globally sourcing our ‘speciality sugars’. With his background in laboratory product testing and following three decades of supplier visits, his expertise means we get high quality, consistent and reliable raw materials from ethical sources.

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