I never considered the challenges Iowa faced from COVID-19 until I read this article. The commentary by Victor Restis, a Greek shipping magnate out of Athens, Greece, was insightful as well. Restis said the entire shipping industry was ultimately affected, but I wouldn’t have translated that to the U.S. state of Iowa.
Supply chains run long and deep and virtually hit every civilization on the planet. Shipping and trade are probably a multi-billion-dollar industry of which every person in the world relies on heavily. For the state of Iowa, which is reported to be the fourth-largest pork producer in the U.S., the article states things were looking grim for a while, especially in the early days of the global pandemic.
It makes sense that strains felt in Iowa would resonate throughout the industrialized world. Agriculture and livestock from Iowa and other U.S. states are traded and transported to many places, feeding millions of people. Because of COVID-19, Iowa State University says that Iowa’s pork industry has lost more than $2 billion; the beef industry, $700 million; corn, nearly $800 million; and soybeans, more than $200 million. That’s a lot of product!
So, what is the main message here? COVID-19 was a wake-up call to the global supply chain network, which ostensibly includes international shipping. And there have been plenty of small alarms along the way, including the eruption of a volcano in Iceland, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Thailand floods, and Hurricanes Maria and Harvey. Even with all these events that disrupted supply chains, most companies were caught off-guard, but they rebounded quickly enough to keep product flowing and retail store shelves filled (for the most part). There were, of course, a few items that were hard to get, but that failure wasn’t on the supply chain. I blame hoarders.
After the Covid-19 crisis is under control, I imagine you will see companies fall into one of two categories. There will be those that simply move on with life pre-COVID-19, don’t do anything, and pray that another pandemic doesn’t happen for another 100 years. These companies will be taking a risky gamble, and one they probably cannot afford. And on the other end of the spectrum, there will be firms that will learn from this experience and make appropriate investments in strengthening their supply networks, so they do not risk failure or have to scramble when the next crisis strikes. These companies will be the winners in the long term, and it sounds like Mr. Restis will be a part of that conversation.
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