Friday Round-up (7/10/20): Seafood Industry Swims Upstream During Global Pandemic
Every week FoodLogiQ will be aggregating the latest updates and resources for businesses navigating the changing food industry. Learn how the industry leaders are adapting to protect and feed consumers, while building resilience in the face of global crisis.
This year, the Global Dialogue for Seafood Traceability released a new guideline, GDST 1.0. This new seafood traceability guideline was drafted to help provide greater transparency in an industry responsible for managing many at-risk ocean resources. GDST 1.0 built consensus around four pillars: international Key Data Elements (KDEs), technical specifications for interoperability systems, benchmarks for verifying data validity, as well as harmonization of business-smart national regulations. Considered one of the most complex food supply chains, GDST 1.0 was an important step towards broader adoption of traceability amongst the stakeholders of the seafood industry.
The guideline was announced in March, just as the coronavirus crisis began to sweep the globe as a bonafide pandemic, throwing numerous supply chains in disarray. For fishermen, the challenges were, and continue to be, extreme and diverse. For one, safety protocols and social distancing can be hard to implement on boats. Fisherman Scott MacAllister told Civil Eats, “It’s a pretty small space [for] three or four people. If one of us gets it, we’re all going to get it.” However, as has been the case in many industries, personal risk is not the only issue seafood businesses and suppliers are facing.
The seafood market is both international and heavily dependent on the hospitality industry, on which the pandemic has had chilling effects. Civil Eats estimates that prior to the pandemic, around two-thirds of seafood eaten in the U.S. could be attributed to hotels and restaurants. To address these massive shifts in demand, some suppliers have opted to freeze their products, gambling on recovery down the line. Other U.S. suppliers impacted by slowed international trade are hoping to sell their inventory to new markets where their products may not have traditionally been as popular or well-known. Many within the industry have long pushed to make these species, like skate wings, monkfish and dogfish, more popular, according to Civil Eats, in hopes of building a more sustainable market in the face of global climate change.
According to the FAO, the impacts of COVID on the seafood supply chain have been comprehensive; in a recent report the organization noted that, “The protection measures taken by governments to contain the spread of the disease, while necessary, have impacted each step of the seafood supply chain, from fishing and aquaculture production to processing, transport, wholesale and retail marketing.” The report states that, “Global industrial fishing activity had fallen globally by about 6.5 percent as of the end of April 2020, compared with previous years.” And, when over a third of fish production enters international trade, this decline is felt across the world.
The crisis has exposed vulnerabilities in the seafood supply chain, in addition to a need to fast-track resiliency efforts. The FAO report notes that, “informal supply chains are facing greater impacts due to the lack of formal contractual relationships.” And, while retailers remain a stable force for business, many seafood businesses have struggled to redirect inventory. This has meant that for operators that are starting to reopen, seafood prices have risen dramatically. With so many dependencies in place, visibility will play an important role as the seafood industry works to stabilize in the new normal.
Please view FoodLogiQ's COVID-19 Food Industry Resource Center for industry-specific updates, resources and information on the coronavirus crisis. For supply chain traceability and risk mitigation guidance, see our general Resource Center.
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