— This is the script of CNBC's news report for China's CCTV on June 22, 2020, Monday.
The emergence of cluster infections in food processing plants in many countries around the world once again illustrates the importance and challenge of epidemic prevention and control in the food industry. It is not easy to manage the tension between food shortages that might result from a shutdown or a cut in production and repeated outbreaks that might result from a resumption of production. While many governments have stressed the importance of food industry prevention and control when they return to work, in the actual implementation process, there are many factors that pose potential risks for clustered infections.
On the one hand, some large food processing plants have large and complex personnel and compact work stations. Under the fast pace of assembly line production, necessary protection and isolation measures are difficult to be fully implemented. In addition, it is reported that some processing plants in Germany have employees from different countries and do not speak the same language, which also poses a challenge for the accurate communication of prevention and control information. Some temporary workers don't have health insurance, and few are willing to call in sick. This, coupled with the cold and humid conditions in some processing plants, increases the risk of employees becoming infected and the virus spreading throughout the plant. Industry insiders have warned in CNBC interviews that the entire food industry could continue to face challenges during the epidemic.
US FOOD CEO
I think over time, call it a year from now, i do believe this industry recovers near to pre covid levels, but over the next few quarters as you say, i think the recovery will be gradual, will be choppy.
These newly exposed problems, on the one hand, require improved protection for food processing plants as a source, and on the other hand, need to strengthen the control of food circulation. Improvements across the food supply chain also need to be driven by more technological innovation.
The new need for prevention during the epidemic has accelerated and expanded adoption of many technologies. For example, blockchain technology for food tracing, sensing, robots and automation. In addition, the refrigeration technology to ensure the safe circulation of food and the cold chain logistics we have talked about more recently are also hot trends in the recent development.
During the epidemic, different countries and regions have different epidemic prevention situations and stages. One trend we are seeing is that many countries and regions are trying to reduce their dependence on imported food. Especially from areas where the epidemic is more severe.
Countries such as Singapore, which have been heavily dependent on food imports, have also made the food industry a priority for transformation during and after the outbreak. That, in turn, has put pressure on some big food exporters to tighten controls. In the capital markets, shares of Tyson Foods came under significant pressure after news of another cluster of infections and plant closures.
Tyson's shares are still down about 30% so far this year, and JBS, another big food processor, is down nearly 35% so far this year.
It will take some time for safety in the food industry to fully recover. And confidence in the food industry will still take time to repair. We will keep an eye on this issue.