The pandemic-related bottlenecks for agriculture have been well-documented in news reports. The question stands: Which ones can be remedied moving forward?
“It’s been very difficult to connect, at a big picture level, food with the food banks and adjust what (dairy) plants are able to make and then how to get it to the food banks,” commented Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management Inc. “Then you have the complexity of refrigeration with the food banks. That has been a struggle. Although, at the local level, I think a lot of companies have done really good work donating,” he went on to say in answering a media question during a conference call on May 19.
Dairy faring better because of processing
“I would add one interesting twist to this question. One thing we’ve also learned is that the dairy industry . . . because of the way in which it has automated, improved, and modernized its processing operations . . . is less vulnerable and a bit more resilient to the situation that the meat processing industry, for example, is currently suffering from,” said former USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who now serves as CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.
“In that sense, it’s a benefit that we have a more resilient system. I think it provides a model for those who will look at this virus and try to determine how to improve the situation so that we are better prepared for the next time this (a pandemic) occurs,” said Vilsack. “I think you are going to see potential focus on how to improve the working situation in these processing facilities so you don’t see the disruption. You will see shorter supply chains,” he continued.
More potential opportunities
“We’re already beginning, on the export side, to see people diversify their purchasing, not being as dependent perhaps as they once were on New Zealand and on Europe, and looking to the U.S. This may provide a little bit of additional opportunity for us,” stated the U.S. dairy export leader. “We’ve seen a bit more market share coming our way because people are now looking on the export side to diversify.”