Covid is just one of many possible or even plausible scenarios that could detrimentally disrupt agricultural supply chains in the future. The pandemic has served to reinforce potential vulnerabilities in our supply chains when it comes to accessing chemicals from China, bringing in shearers from New Zealand, or trucking produce across state borders, for example.
A new AgriFutures Australia initiative is set to look broadly at agricultural supply-chain resilience by understanding the types of shocks that are possible, what the potential impacts could be and identify practical strategies and actions to future-proof our supply-chains against domestic or international shocks.
The research project will develop recommendations to help build and accelerate sector resilience.
The scope of the project includes agriculture, fisheries, and forestry sectors, with a focus on supply-chain transport and logistics vulnerabilities which impact on the import, export, and domestic movement of goods across agricultural supply chains.
Strategy consultant and partner at firm Strategic Project Partners (SPP), Noel Leung, said a forensic investigation of how the identified sectors can better prepare for supply chain and logistic disruptions is a critical move for industry, and the Australian economy.
“It’s been such a perfect storm insofar as the devastating impact COVID conditions have had on the physical movements of goods locally and globally, as well as the labour shortages, and significant disruptions to rural operations due the supply chain stalling in the midst of multiple, rapidly changing situations,” Ms Leung said.
“Combine that with demand for agricultural products spiking like never before, also as a direct result of the pandemic, and you’ve got an industry that already operates on thin margins pushed to the edge.”
Ms Leung said collaboration must be at the core of all considerations when assessing what types of strategies could be adopted by the agriculture, forestry, and fishery sectors – from producers, industry, agribusiness to government – to build greater supply-chain resilience.
“There’s a real theme I’ve seen across sectors that do this well and that’s working together – not against each other – as well as being able to work across silos and take an end-to-end approach to solving problems,” she said.
“To overcome major challenges like this one and prepare for future issues, you’ve got to change the competition mindset and pull together. For many agricultural industries this is a fundamental cultural shift and not easy, particularly during a pandemic.
Ms Leung said one example of where this is often a sticking point, is around people not wanting to share data.
“This is often the case, even though they’re pulling the same data from the same primary sources. Ultimately the commercial value of AgTech and data solutions is how one person – or a group of people – uses the data, not the data itself. It’s important to apply that logic across the board,” she said.