‘Severe shortage of refrigerated containers for international business’ – MII

The global outbreak of novel coronavirus (Covid-19) has compounded meat industry concerns over a “severe shortage” of refrigerated containers for international business.

And while on the domestic front meat processing operations throughout the country are continuing, farmers are being advised to “engage directly” with their processing plant on the specific health and safety procedures that have been implemented.

In a statement to AgriLand, Cormac Healy, the senior director of Meat Industry Ireland (MII), offered the following update on how the rapidly unfolding situation is impacting the meat processing sector – with a specific focus on the “sharp fall” in food-service demand.

“Meat processing throughout the country is continuing despite the challenges posed by Covid-19. In response to the virus threat, revised protocols have been put in place in meat plants for all aspects of our operations including: for workers; farmer suppliers; hauliers; and service providers.

MII advises all farmers and cattle hauliers to engage directly with their processing plant on specific procedures.

“Every effort is being made to maintain normal processing activity, but inevitably, circumstances may arise that could lead to the sporadic disruption of processing.

“MII welcomes the Government recognition of meat and food processing generally as being an essential service in these difficult times.

“It is vital that we keep food on tables and maintain the continuity of supply chains. Maintaining processing is also critical to ensuring the orderly movement of animals from farms.

“As a major exporter to the UK, EU and international markets, transport and logistics are critical.

“The role of hauliers and transport operators is imperative to maintaining functioning supply chains and we appreciate their efforts at this time.

“One major issue that has been ongoing for several weeks now, and has been exacerbated by recent developments with Covid-19, is the severe shortage of refrigerated containers for international business.”

Imbalance

From a markets and sales channel perspective, MII is seeing that Covid-19 has impacted in both a positive and negative way – and is leading to some supply chain disruption.

Healy continued: “On the one hand, there has been a spike in retail demand but on the other hand, food-service demand has fallen sharply due to business closures and social distancing advice.

“Retailers have increased volume purchases in recent weeks, but this now seems to be normalising again as bulk buying by consumers eases.

“Sales to food service [restaurant, catering, etc] have fallen with the closure of restaurants and food outlets right across our key European markets.

Another factor is that retail sales comprise a greater proportion of mince and diced products – which contrasts with a greater focus on steak cut sales to the restaurant and catering sectors.

“If this position is sustained, it will lead to an imbalance in the market.

“For now, meat processors, as all others, are continuing to operate, albeit while applying strict protocols to protect staff, suppliers, customers and stakeholders, and the businesses themselves are working on contingency plans for various eventualities.”