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West Virginia University

Worker shortage more likely than food shortage amid coronavirus pandemic

17-Apr-2020 12:05 PM EDT, by West Virginia University

Ednilson Bernardes, chair of the Global Supply Chain Management program within West Virginia University’s John Chambers College of Business and Economics, says companies like Smithfield and Tyson Foods closing their meat-producing plants is unlikely to lead to a food shortage. Instead, he says, the bigger threat is a shortage in the workforce.

Bernardes says the crucial challenge to keeping supply chains running is the health and availability of frontline workers; however, as the pandemic evolves, the risk of an affected workforce continues to increase.


Audio file: “Food security is not at the risk in the near term…”
“Food security is not at the risk in the near term. The food supply chain in the U.S., and actually around the globe, is pretty robust and has been quite resilient.”

Audio file: “Taking prudent measures to preserve the health...”
“Taking prudent measures to preserve the health of the frontline workers is paramount. We see the importance of that point playing out currently, not only in the food supply chain but in supply chains in general.”

Audio file: “The supply chain industry has a fantastic workforce…”
“The supply chain industry has a fantastic workforce composed of talented, hardworking, problem-solving leaders and professionals. If that workforce becomes compromised, so does the ability to maintain the flow of supplies, and that's the big threat.”

Audio file: “The other problem is the economic stress on farmers…”
“The other problem is the economic stress on farmers that cannot switch to other channels, and I think a lot of more problem solving will be required there. There is the risk of a lot of our farmers going broke, and this can compromise the overall supply in the longer term.”

Audio file: “We also have people not showing up for work…”
“We also have people not showing up for work because they're fearful of getting contaminated. We have people that, while the schools are shut down, they have kids at home, so they actually can't go to work. All of this creates pressure and a shortage of the workforce.” — Ednilson Bernardes, professor and program chair of Global Supply Chain Management

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