South American Feed Industry Shielded from Economic Effects of COVID-19 Measures
27 Mar 2020 Source: Simon Schatzberg for Feedinfo News Service
27 March 2020 – The global COVID-19 pandemic has begun to affect South America, and governments in the region are taking different measures to halt its spread. One of the most drastic responses has been in Argentina, where authorities have issued a nationwide stay-at-home order. Brazil has issued similar orders in certain parts of the country, while Uruguay is taking less extreme social distancing measures and limiting international travel.
However, in all of these countries, industries related to food production have been excluded from lockdown orders. Therefore, the impact on animal feed producers has been minimal, according to industry representatives.
According to Luis Rangel, a board member of FeedLatina, there has been minimal impact on production.
There are small things that are bothering the system, but they are not significant, he said. Volumes have not been affected so far.
FeedLatina president Pablo Azpiroz told FeedInfo that governments in Latin America recognize the production of food as an essential activity, and are working together with the feed sector to prevent disruption in this difficult time.
Domestic transport of feed products in every Latin American country has also been continuing normally, although Rangel noted that shipping costs have gone up somewhat in Brazil.
However, there have been some delays in international shipping of raw materials and feed products because of travel restrictions and other measures many countries have put in place to respond to the pandemic, Azpiroz said.
The travel restrictions do not apply to international commerce, but they have corresponded with a reduction in personnel at border crossings, which has led to some minor delays. Also, disruptions in staffing of customs agencies, many of which have their agents working from home, has caused some minor delays.
The industry is also taking preventative measures to stop the spread of the disease, following recommendations from the WHO and national health authorities, which include allowing employees to work from home when possible. At processing plants, some companies are changing schedules, reducing the number of workers on site at a given time and avoiding contact between workers in different shifts.
Companies are also sending home workers with compromised immune systems or those who present even minor symptoms. Juan Pablo Ravazzano, a board member of FeedLatina, told FeedInfo that some Argentine companies are hiring temporary employees to cover the gaps.
However, Azpiroz said that because of the skills and training required for many jobs at feed processing plants, it is unlikely that many companies will hire temporary workers on a large scale.
Firms have also suspended travel by their employees and outside visits to their facilities.
Ravazzano reassured the customers of the feed sector that animal nutrition companies are doing everything they can to maintain the supply chain. He also asked the customers to make sure that payments along the food supply chain continue to take place regularly, because delays in payment could cause problems for feed production.