A food supply chain is the journey food takes from where it’s grown to where it’s consumed. Typically, the chain is made up of six processes:
- Assembling raw materials.
- Processing (Branding and packaging).
- Distribution (wholesale and retail).
These different processes are handled by various key players in the food supply chain such as farmers, manufacturers, distributors and others.
If there is an error during any of these stages, the final product could be affected and the consumer might end up taking food that is below safety standards.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1 in 10 people fall sick every year from eating contaminated food. Therefore a problem in the supply system might be detrimental to one’s health.
Below are three problems facing the food supply chain and some suggested solutions:
1. Lack of Traceability:
Nowadays, many people are curious about the origin of their food. For instance, a lot of people like to know the exact ingredients that constitute their meals to be sure it meets up with their diet plans/dietary intake.
In 2012, a study in Europe revealed that 70% of consumers consider the origin of their food as an important factor when purchasing it. Food traceability is important because it has three key benefits:
- It improves quality control.
- It increases supply chain visibility.
- It reduces risk.
Nonetheless, the food supply system is still not as traceable as consumers would like it to be.
Keeping a record of the food journey from production to consumption not only helps companies guarantee the authenticity of their products but also helps suppliers spot and react quickly when issues arise.
It also helps companies to build their customer base, loyalty, brand, and can be a saving grace in the events of legal issues.
Some practical ways to increase food traceability is by:
- Implementing tracking systems and software.
- Creating alert systems to notify key players when things go wrong.
- Communicating with the customers.
2. Poor Storage and Transport:
Poor storage and transport is one of the biggest problems in agriculture and it often leads to food wastage. In the food supply chain, the problem also affects the quality of food.
If any of the key players compromise food quality and they don’t detect it early, the consumer can end up eating this unsafe food.
The goal is to produce and distribute high quality products that are safe for consumption and there are some practical measures that can be taken towards achieving this.
If you compromise one step, you will one step is jeopardized, it will compromise the entire process. To solve this problem, the first step is to select the best raw materials and use the right production method to see the process through.
Use adequate storage equipment to store feed in order to keep it fresh and healthy. Also, when branding and packaging the food, manufacturers should do it in a way that they preserve the freshness and safety of the food.
3. Lack of Trust and Communication Between Key Players:
No chain can function well if there is ineffective communication between key players. Improper communication causes a rift in the food supply chain.
Nearly every food item passes through many hands before it gets to the final consumer. It is sometimes hard to keep track of all the people involved in food production.
For instance, a plate of salad consists of different vegetables. Each of these vegetables (cabbage, lettuce, spinach) were planted in different places and go through various hands in order to get to the consumer’s plate.
Thankfully, technology has made it easier to communicate. To encourage transparency and increase effectiveness in the food supply chain, there should be a clear channel of communication among the key players.
What other problems can be encountered in the food supply chain? Let us know in the comment section below.