Govt urged to keep borders open for food supply

There appears to be bottlenecks in the food supply chains when transporting food, says expert

by FARA AISYAH/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

REGIONAL players in the food and beverages (F&B) industry, including Food Industry Asia (FIA) and the Asean Food and Beverage Alliance (AFBA), call for the Malaysian government to keep the borders open for supply.

The associations said the key role that the Malaysian government needs to play to ensure a stable food supply is ensuring that the manufacturing of F&B products, ingredients and other raw materials, as well as distribution by the retail sector can continue uninterrupted.

The government also needs to ensure that travel restrictions, including border management controls, do not result in the disruption of food supply chains.

FIA ED Matt Kovac said if severe restrictions are imposed by countries in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, they will cause a ripple effect on the regional food supply chains.

“We need public and private consultation for any decision around the supply of food because without both parties talking to each other, the impact on a country can be very harmful.

“Governments must work with the food industry in this time of crisis to categorise F&B as essential, understand the implications of disruptions and delays, and try to ensure that production and sup- ply chains are unhindered as much as possible,” he said in a statement yesterday.

While AFBA and FIA recognise the need for the Malaysian government to take extraordinary and unprecedented measures to protect its population from Covid-19, the significant delays in manufacturing and distribution will slow down the entire food supply chains and effectively contribute to a shortage of essential goods.

AFBA president Abdul Halim Saim said the association is starting to see bottlenecks in the food supply chains when transporting food.

“Each country should review their existing food security policy as more needs to be done. Policymakers should involve the F&B sector in the process.

“Any restriction of movement, including the workforce, will affect the stability of food production. The situation has now been exacerbated by the global increase in demand for food,” he added.

The associations said Asean’s food value chain is not only crucial for ensuring food security, but also a major driver of GDP and employment in the region.

In terms of GDP, the food value chain contributes around US$500 billion (RM2.17 trillion) of economic output, which is around 17% of Asean’s total GDP. The share of jobs is higher at 34% of the total labour force.