Plant protein suppliers work to keep factories openApril 27, 2020
The COVID-19 outbreak and nationwide lockdowns around the world have put a strain on the global food industry.
The US government has classified the food and agriculture sectors – made up of around 2.1 million farms, 935,000 restaurants, and more than 200,000 food manufacturing, processing, and storage facilities – as essential infrastructure and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said it is working to ensure resources and safety are prioritized.
Food producers have had to deal with major disruptions but are keen to stress that supplies are stable.
According to the United Soy Board, for instance, the US soybean industry is operating at near full capacity while soy processors have been crushing “record amounts” in recent months to supply strong domestic demand and exports.
US farmers are expected to plant more soy this season compared to last year when wet weather prevented planting and soybean stocks are forecast to be 11.56 million metric tons in summer this year, according to USDA figures.
While certain fruit and vegetables rely on seasonal migrant workers to pick and process the crops– workers who are no longer available due to lockdown measures and border closures – the harvest of plant protein crops such as soy, pea and wheat tends to be mechanized.
Keeping workers safe
Food giant Cargill does not publicize figures for the volume of soy it works with but its soy footprint covers sourcing, processing, and trading. It also produces pea protein through a joint venture with PURIS.
Speaking about the company’s operations in general, Matt Parsons, operations director for Cargill North America, said it has been working closely with suppliers and customers and has experienced limited disruptions in its supply chain to date.
Where possible, it has opted to have employees work from home in order to limit contact and potential spread of the virus.
“However, our plant facility teams cannot work from home and still deliver the food the world needs,” Parsons said. “That is why we have adopted additional health and safety protocols for employees at major production facilities.”
These include enhanced sanitizing procedures, prohibiting visitors from its facilities, adopting social distancing and offering shift flexibility to keep its major production facilities open.
Despite these additional measures, the food giant has had to announce closures at several meat plants in North America, according to Reuters, such as its meatpacking factory in Hazleton, Pennsylvania where around 900 workers are employed.
The company confirmed to FoodNavigator-USA it has had no North American soy plant closures or disruptions in operations.
Roquette’s R&D plant produces alcohol
French pea protein supplier Roquette has also put in place home working where possible, restricted factory access to essential staff only and distributed personal protective equipment for workers.
Roquette said disruption to its business has been minimal. Its plant in…