There are widespread accounts of farm workers abandoning their jobs in Ebola ravished regions. In Sierra Leone, approximately 40% of fields and farmlands are being deserted as workers fear Ebola outbreaks. Disrupting and ceasing regional trade, the Ebola outbreak is set to cause food shortages throughout the region.
While much of the agricultural produce produced in these regions is likely to be for domestic production there could also be some intended for export or used as ingredients further up the supply chain.
Food businesses are urged to review their supply chains carefully to identify if there are ingredients being used that originate from affected regions. It is important that each tier in the supply chain is considered; while the business may not be sourcing directly from Africa, their suppliers or sub-suppliers may be.
Regrettably if Ebola is not contained then the above exercise could need to be repeated each time an Ebola outbreak is declared in another country or region. While Ebola would not appear to present a food safety risk, the risk is more likely to be a commercial risk of material unavailability or price spikes if there are material shortages.
Most food businesses will not have visibility beyond their Tier 1 suppliers so may be in the dark on how to tackle this issue. But the answer may lie in the humble and much maligned product specifications.
Tracey Cranney, Operations Manager at QADEX, said, “These days most food manufacturers require detailed product specifications which include a recipe breakdown. Included in these recipe breakdowns is the country of origin of each ingredient, so if you have an electronic specification system you should be able to quickly search by country of origin, including all sub-ingredients in your ingredients.”
Qadex’s food safety and brand protection software is the simple and effective way to ensure transparency in the food chain. Manufacturers can identify potential areas for concern and prepare for a future risk; such as that posed by the West African Ebola outbreak. By searching all ingredients used through the easy-to-use software, businesses can pinpoint ingredients which may experience a shortage and prepare by arranging other suppliers to back up in case of a serious issue.
Africa is now a substantial importer of food produce to the EU, mainly in cocoa and flour products. The cocoa industry is already being stretched to the limits in terms of supply and demand, so any businesses relying on African cocoa should be vigilant.
To find out more about QADEX’s range of food safety and brand protection systems visit http://www.qadex.com/