Updated: Nov 17, 2020
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the millions of tons of food wasted under government regulation is a direct result of poor planning and coordination and go against all sustainability efforts- SDG goals, greening goals, circularity, and climate change. Across the continent both Canadian and US governments failed to launch programs quickly enough to mitigate the waste, leaving producers with no choice but to waste huge quantities of food.
Farmers across North America are destroying their own crops, produce, and dairy after the coronavirus ravaged the food market — Agriculture Canada and USDA failed to help them find suitable alternatives to avoid waste!
The ripple effects of government decisions when shutting down-regulated industries, such as agriculture was not considered.
Billions of dollars worth of food across Canada and the USA, produced by farms and dairy operations is being wasted after demand collapsed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Food waste is a result of growers and producers having to face a massive surplus of highly perishable items.
COVID-19 has created multiple socio-economic challenges across North America.
These include a health crisis, sudden-stop of economic activity, volatile financial markets, weak investor confidence, capital flight, exchange rate volatility, tighter financial conditions, price shocks, panic buying, supply chain disruptions, and reduced availability of goods.
The socio-economic impacts are compounded by increases in food prices due to the heightened demand for food, reduced production, disrupted and broken altered supply chains, transportation issues, increased cross border restrictions and food safety issues, as well as dramatic changes in share and oil prices, are all factors that could lead to food inflation.
At an individual level, layoffs and the temporary closure of non-essential services mean that the population has less disposable income.
The shut down of meat and dairy processing plants, tourism, travel, and various service industries because of the virus, means buyers like restaurants, hotels, schools, stadiums, theme parks, and cruise ships, therefore, purchasing items like produce, eggs, and milk in mass quantities is not occurring at all or dropped in some cases to a third it’s regular, which has, in turn, caused demand to plummet.
On the other hand, food banks are handling record demands and grocery stores struggle to keep shelves stocked. Our purchasing habits changed where people are buying more and hoarding certain items, this means items have to be available and in continuous supply across the chain something that’s easily seen on empty grocery store shelves. But while the suppliers for supermarkets may be struggling to keep up, companies that support the hospitality industry and large-scale clients like restaurants, airlines, work camps, schools, and businesses are forced to rework their logistics. As the supply chain disruption grows, farmers are simultaneously dumping fresh milk and re-mulching vegetables back into the ground as the pandemic drove shutdown upended the supply chain.
Quarantines, border closures, food safety concerns and temporary business closures caused by “shelter in place” orders have affected traditional markets and reduced opportunities for agricultural output.
Things get even tougher for producers of more perishable goods since they have a shorter window to rework things. Farmers plan their sales and crop rotation for their sales cycle’s months in advance, now their markets are disrupted and they cannot pivot to other sales outlets due to a number of factors, including cross border travel and regulatory hurdles.
The COVID Pandemic and regulatory bodies decision to close businesses disrupted numerous industries and operations. These disruptions are significantly impacting farmers and dairy producers who operate under strict quotas of perishable produce and products for specific outlets in mind, as well—assuming these farms can find enough laborers (under Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Program during COVID-19 restrictions) to harvest their crops.
Millions of tons of dairy eggs and produce are ending up in the dump. What a waste, while unemployment is on the rise and job losses increase, making it difficult for citizens to afford groceries and basic necessities. At the same time, the lack of planning created shortages in some regions, and costs of basic food is on the rise, the result is an obvious gaping hole in the lack of cross-pollination, impact assessments, and quality decision making between government programs and services, their inability to plan and mitigate risks to farmers and dairy producers’ ends up with large quantities of food waste.
As restaurants and other regular businesses are closed, producers are left with no option but to crush fruit and vegetables back into the ground and pour milk down the drain. Farmers are destroying vast amounts of usable food and milk because the coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible to sell as they have no way to put it on the market for a profit
With the social distancing rules and border closers, Labour shortages will be the next major issue for most farms, both in the field and in processing facilities. Many enterprises are reliant on migrant farmworkers, who travel seasonally within the country or from other countries. With many farms experiencing a delay in worker arrivals and a decrease in the number of workers available, perishable crops are especially susceptible to production issues down the road.
The silos of government. The interdependencies of agencies and ministries are again failing citizens across the continent. It is shameful when politics and quota come before common sense and doing the right thing.
COVID -19 highlights the discrepancies and disconnects across government programs and services, the lack of vision and dependencies are highly visible and it is time citizens hold the administration accountable for their inactions and lack of contingency planning.
The government domino effect driving up costs, while they are attempting to put funding strategies in place and spend more on bailouts and subsidies.
When Health-o-Crats decided to shut down businesses, communities, and organizations, many government agencies did not put plans in place to stop food waste as a result of the shutdown of all non-essential services which included restaurants and manufacturing/ processing plants. The result of the lack of planning has been food shortages and waste created by the failure of agencies and government program executives.
In the US, the federal government did launch a program to redistribute this food, setting aside $3 billion for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to buy it up and send it to struggling Americans.
We acknowledge that all levels of government are working under changing circumstances, so is industry and consumers. Waste mitigation and sustainability are being flexible and adaptable to emerging and changing conditions in near real-time to support the changing societal needs. All levels of governments have made commitments to work with agriculture to secure our food supply and to boost the economy. These commitments must be enabled post haste.
The coordination across the food supply chain must involve among others, The USDA, ministries of agriculture, labor, OHS, Border security and immigration, livestock and dairy producers, transport, energy, economy, trade, and so forth to develop a mitigation plan early during any disaster or shut down process.
The integration of digital technologies, supply chain transparency, unbiased data for quality decisions, and the ability to have access to data across the chain from feed stock to consumer needs and demands in real-time is critical to mitigating food waste. Digital technologies and relevant data quality will help mitigate the supply and security risks of our food eco-system and these same technologies will support our commitment to mitigate food waste and commit to ensuring agriculture will continue to operate sustainably and profitably with all needed inputs and support services necessary. The current demand and storage capacity leave many farmers with the only option, to plow back (re-mulch) excess fruit and vegetables into the ground to prevent the crops from rotting in the field and attracting pests.
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting supply chain crisis provide an opportunity for businesses and individuals to cut down on up to 33 percent of food that typically goes to waste.
Waste mitigate examples:
· review and update the “best before and expiry dates” on produce and dairy.,
· remove artificial regulatory hurdles to rapidly open up additional cold storage capacity,
· sharing labor and facilities,
· coordinating production levels or identifying where there is hidden capacity in the supply chain for processing the milk into other storable dairy products such as cheese, butter, and skimmed milk powder.
· support the industry in working together to address current market challenges, avoiding waste, and maintaining the productive capacity to meet future demand.
· make exceptions and change quotas for farmers,
· provide farmers with the support to recalibrate production to the new demands (technology and resources)
· adjust our warehousing, logistics and purchasing processes to meet a consumer-facing market,
· help industry flatten the volatile demand curve by region
· enable the manufacturing of products for future use
Forward-thinking organizations identify the linear economy as a risk to their bottom line and as such are changing their business models to reduce exposure by adopting circular economy principles. However, it is a challenge to remain competitive when faced with prevailing economic structures, regulation, and standards serving short-term linear business models that continue to result in:
· un-integrated and unmappable supply chains
· low-cost instead of quality
· planned obsolescence
· consumer perception of quality meaning new
· negative impacts on the natural world and communities being externalized and not reflected in the cost of products
Our fragile societies are driven by conflicting, self-fulfilling political, economic and social policies. Politicians are leading society’s race to the bottom. Political agendas and politician’s legacy trumps citizens need and protection. Time for Politicians and bureaucrats to talk less, remove red tape and act faster to mitigate waste during crisis!
Dave Gajadhar is an Advisor, Speaker, Educator, and an Advocate for Human prosperity and resource optimization at Resultant Group (Edmonton, AB), business modernization, resource optimization and transition advisors.
Phone: (780) 483-4800
e-mail Dgajadhar@ResultantGroup.com or contact through
Resultant Group helps companies to identify what matters to each of your stakeholders, participants and clients across your value chain. This enables your organization to optimize resources, monetize excess material and enable your sustainability reporting to convey the business’ unique story reflecting how your business is genuinely managed in a shared and circular economy. Join us at one of our regional workshops. Check out our schedule online at Resultantgroup.com and Companiesforzerowaste.com. Visit @ResultantGroup to learn more about advisory master classes.