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COVID-19 continues to threaten the food supply chain

Food shortages that began with consumer hoarding weeks ago could be set to continue, as Smithfield Foods has closed its pork processing plant.

The facility, located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is one of the largest in the United States, and produces 4-5% of the US’ pork. The closure of the site followed the positive testing of 293 staff members. The facility currently employs approximately 3,700 people, who will be paid for at least two weeks whilst not working. 

Kenneth Sullivan, CEO of Smithfield Foods said: "It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running. The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply.”

Meat facilities in Pennsylvania and Colorado have also been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic, and the effect is being felt in more than just one industry. Kenneth Sullivan highlighted how, with slaughterhouses being closed, farmers will have nowhere to send their livestock, which could lead to “potentially disastrous repercussions for many in the supply chain.”

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It’s not only the beginning of the supply chain that is feeling the impact. Grocery store workers are becoming increasingly affected by the virus, with more workers falling ill by the day. Absences in these “key worker” roles are only going to continue as employees wait for protective equipment, something that even front-line medical workers are struggling to access. Facing consumers every day, some of which will not adhere to the strict social distancing rules, means these employees are at constant risk of contracting the virus.

For more information on procurement, supply chain and logistics topics - please take a look at the latest edition of Supply Chain Digital magazine.

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