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We certainly need revolution in our supply chain. We have looked for cost savings sometimes at the expense of product quality and security of the supply chain: shipping whitefish from the North Atlantic to China for reprocessing before returning it back to western markets is the perfect example.
The disruption from covid-19 will pass in time, hopefully sooner rather than later, but this will not be the last threat to world trade we will have to face. Perhaps sustainability, a subject we have all bought into in recent years, needs to be upgraded to also include the resilience of the supply chains. All the certification and hard work to produce great seafood is worthless if we don't get product into the consumer's shopping basket.
After 2008, the financial sector introduced stress testing and changed the way it did business, recognizing some of the previous wisdom was not fit for the future. The seafood industry in turn needs to look at how it works. How long is the supply chain for a product? How robust are the intermediate companies? How well-governed and effective at decision making are they? Is each customer in the chain important to their supplier?
Trading relationships are the first to collapse under stress, whereas partnerships are more likely to resolve challenges. We need to be able to face new threats as they emerge, have ready access to knowledge and decision makers who consult then act.
There are difficult decisions being made in government at present. The need to protect the economy by allowing flow of goods and people is set against the need to protect the vulnerable and regulate pressure on health services by restricting transmission opportunities.
There will be impact and recovery but this is also an opportunity to learn lessons for the next time.
Seafood industry veteran Andrew Mallison is former Marks & Spencer buyer, IFFO director-general and most recently Global Aquaculture Alliance executive director.
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