March 19, 2020

Some lessons for the global feed and livestock industry from China's handling of COVID-19

An eFeedLink Exclusive

Since end January 2020 when COVID-19 broke out in China, in order to control the epidemic, Beijing implemented a slew of compulsory measures, including restricting vehicular and human traffic and transportation, shutting shopping malls and supermarkets, and prohibiting group dining in public spaces. The rigid implementation of government policies by management at different levels had caused much difficulties for the feed and livestock industry across China:

1. As traffic in various areas (and across provinces) were restricted, purchases of raw materials (including corn, soymeal and feed additives) by feed mills stalled. Likewise, feedstuff products could not leave the mills.

2. In many village and suburban areas where farms are located, road access was cut off, resulting in the farms not being able to transport farm inputs (such as feed and day-old chicks) and outputs (livestock products). Many broiler farms even stopped production or were forced to dispose their birds.

3. The closure of live poultry markets across China resulted in huge losses for the yellow-feather broiler market in particular.

4. Throughout China's experience with COVID-19, resumption of work activities were slow and consumer activity was dismal (at the time of writing full recovery has not been made), resulting in a sales backlog of meat and egg products.

While some of the above were necessary as part of COVID-19 disease control measures, others were the result of those managing not having a realistic consideration of farm requirements, or even blindly following official instructions.

As of mid-March, while China has effectively controlled COVID-19, other world regions are seeing a rise in outbreaks. Although the nature of the feed and livestock industry in Europe and the United States is different from China's, including the legal, social and cultural context, it is hoped that lessons can be drawn from China's experience with COVID-19 thus far.

We would like to make a few basic recommendations to our foreign friends:

1. Management bodies have to consider farm requirements, and ensure the smooth flow of feed and livestock inputs and outputs.

2. We recommend feed and livestock companies to keep appropriate stockpiles of processing inputs to minimise the impact of any transport disruption to their operations.

3. Sales channels of livestock products should not be disrupted.

4. Enhance personal and workplace hygiene against COVID-19 for personnel at feed mills, farms and processing plants.

5. To reduce the impact on business operations from COVID-19, the use of online and mobile platforms from farm to fork should be encouraged and extended.
From the eFeedLink team in China

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