Food supply chain disruptions and trade protectionist measures amid COVID-19 pandemic could cause major food shortages across Asia 

In light of the increasing number of nationwide lockdowns and border restrictions today, the ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance (AFBA) and Food Industry Asia (FIA), the regional associations representing ASEAN’s and Asia’s food and beverage (F&B) industries respectively, are suggesting  governments across the region collaborate to ensure the unhindered production and supply of food and beverages as each country tries to contain the outbreak of COVID-19. 

Across ASEAN countries already face food security challenges as well as current measures in containing COVID-19 that directly and indirectly impact the agri-food supply chain will only place further stress on food value chains. 

As countries in the region tighten border access and restrict the movement of non-essential goods, the categorisation of all food and beverages should remain as essential to ensure a continuous food supply to all people. The availability of workers to support production is critical with the necessity of all industry players to reinforce efforts to keep employees safe and healthy. 

This is especially critical as the food supply chain is a complex web that involves producers, agricultural inputs, transportation, other logistics, availability of workers and so much more. In the ASEAN region, food systems remain highly interdependent – and disruption to any part of it will have unforeseen knock-on effects. Furthermore, this interdependence extends to the broad range of non-food inputs that go into production – including animal feed, seeds, chemicals, oils and packaging.

While AFBA and FIA recognise the need for governments to take extraordinary and unprecedented measures to protect its population from COVID-19, the issue at hand is the delay and disruption of manufactured food and beverage products, ingredients, raw materials, and packaging for domestic consumption and for exports. Significant delays in manufacturing and distribution will slow down the entire food supply chain and could effectively contribute to a shortage of essential goods, which is why collaboration and open communication are essential.  

The key role that governments play is to ensure a stable food supply of manufacturing of food and beverage products, ingredients and other raw materials, as well as distribution by the retail sector. They also ensure that travel restrictions, including border management controls, do not result in the disruption of food supply chains. 

ASEAN’s food value chain is not only crucial for ensuring food security, but also a major driver of GDP and employment in the region. In terms of GDP, the food value chain contributes around US$500 billion of economic output, which is around 17 per cent of ASEAN’s total GDP. The share of jobs is even higher, accounting for 34 per cent of the total labour force. 

It is widely recognised that the impacts of the crisis could become more challenging over the coming months if the situation continues to worsen. If the main phase of the crisis was to continue for another six months, many businesses are predicting falls of 10-15% in production and revenue, and 5-10% in employment – when compared with pre-crisis expectations for 2020 . 

In this difficult time, it is important that governments assure consumers that they will have access to essential food. This can be achieved by maintaining stable food production, and access to workers, agricultural supply lines, transportation and logistics during this time of crisis. 

A concerted effort will be required between industry and governments to keep supply chains open and minimise disruption to the food system and ASEAN communities.

AFBA and FIA jointly puts forward the following recommendations to ASEAN leaders:

1. We commit to do whatever we can to ensure uninterrupted food production and supply chains, including the preservation of open borders for goods, both at an upstream and downstream level.

2. All people involved in food and beverage supply chains are considered to be critical infrastructure and essential like healthcare workers.

3. Protect the labour supply to keep supply chains functioning, with the prerequisite of businesses implementing measures such as provision of personal protective equipment and safe distancing. Ensure those who are sick or feeling unwell do not work to protect others. 

4. Ensure public and private consultation for any policy decision around the supply of food to mitigate the effects of the crisis as much as possible.



About ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance
The ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance (AFBA) is a group of national associations in South East Asia involved in the manufacturing, distribution and sale of food and beverage products. We are a dedicated non-profit body committed to effectively representing the food industry within the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Visit http://afba.co/home/ for further information.

About Food Industry Asia

FIA was founded in July 2010 by a group of leading food and beverage companies. From our base in Singapore, we seek to enhance the industry's role as a trusted partner in the development of science-based policy in the region.

FIA provides an important hub for advocacy and debate. We bring together the food industry's most senior business leaders to champion initiatives that promote sustainable growth and support regional policies that deliver harmonised results. Visit http://foodindustry.asia for further information.

For more information, please contact:

Lyna Hanis – Account Director
Baldwin Boyle Group
Email: lyna.hanis@baldwinboyle.com 
Telephone: 9139 0572

Rachel Loo – Senior Account Executive
Baldwin Boyle Group
Email: rachel.loo@baldwinboyle.com 
Telephone: 9362 9355