The coronavirus pandemic continues to cause chaos and fear across the globe. It is clear now that this monster is not just taking lives, but it is also disrupting everyday living, putting businesses at risk and turning national economies upside down. How is the food and beverage industry affected in South East Asia? Let’s take a look at the top stories from March 2020. As can be seen from the selection of news articles below, most issues are related to consumer perception of the safety of food, and the restrictions on the import-export trade – but national food production may need to adapt to keep up with demand.
China looks to dairy products for an answer
As the majority of countries across the world lay down strict measures to reduce virus contamination and the death toll, experts are looking to China (where the virus began) to find out how they are dealing with it and whether the peak has been passed.
Social distancing and social isolation appear to be the main shield against the spread of the disease. But as many commentators have stated, we must also keep our immune systems healthy in order to fight the battle. In China four major dairy associations have created a set of guidelines in hopes of strengthening the public immune resistance to Covid-19.
A representative from the associations said to Food Navigator-asia.com “…science has shown that a balanced diet can […} enhance immune resistance and provide important nutritional support to combat diseases. Milk and other dairy products are an excellent source of protein, calcium and vitamins”
The UAE restricts Chinese imports
Imports and exports are bound to experience uncertainty at this difficult time. Two countries in the UAE – Jordan and Egypt – have suspended the import of Chinese food products. At the beginning of February, Jordan put down a ban on all animal and plant-based products from China. In Egypt, it was announced that imports of garlic, carrots and ginger would be suspended.
Consequences of the lockdown in Malaysia
Malaysia’s borders remain on lockdown for an initial 2 weeks at least. This has caused panic in the neighbouring country of Singapore as they depend on fresh produce from the country. As in most countries in lockdown, only non-essential businesses have had to close down, so food businesses are still required to be accessible. Clearly the reduction of exports important to Malaysia will have a marked effect on their economy and national food production.
False claims and myths are rife on social media
Already social media is rife with false claims, news and cures. In Singapore, hustlers have gone one step further by attempting to sell false Covid -19 cures from local e-commerce platforms. Luckily the Singapore government is well aware of this and are clamping down on the practice.
Australia and Chinese imports
Australia is another country which relies on China for fresh food imports. Because there has been a slowdown of packaging materials from China, there is likely to be a shortage of rice, flour, pasta, biscuits and Long Life products in Australia
China and fresh food produce
As well as China experiencing issues with exports of food products, it is also facing problems with sales of fresh local produce. People perhaps unfairly are not trusting home produce. Conversely, this has led to a boom in fresh food imports from neighbouring Asian countries. This shift in the export-import trade in the food and beverage industry will no doubt hit the Chinese economy.
Looking to April
As we reach the end of March 2020 and are aware that so many countries across the world are now on lockdown it is not only China which will have to find a new balance between exports and imports and create new structures to deal with the demand for food, and loss of money to economies.
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