August is traditionally silly season territory, but there is nothing silly about the summer of 2014.
Over the past few weeks, the world has seen an extraordinarily harrowing sequence of events, with Gaza, the plight of the Yazidis, West Africa’s Ebola crisis and the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine dominating headlines.
In this week’s issue of The Grocer, we take a closer look at the implications for the UK food and drink sector of two of these: we are assessing the fallout from the Russian import ban on certain Western food and drinks items, and analyse how movement restrictions arising from the Ebola crisis are affecting the cocoa trade.
It is easy to say things like ‘all supply chains are global these days’ – events like those of the past few weeks, and their implications at home in the UK, drive home just how globally connected our food and drink supply really is.
But hang on, you might say. Isn’t it a bit cynical to look for the grocery angle in this?
And indeed, the industry – and those who report on it – have to tread a careful line here. How do we raise legitimate concerns about supply chain disruptions without reducing stories of human suffering to cheap cucumbers, input cost inflation for confectionery makers, and protesters causing headaches for store managers?
I don’t see an easy answer to this. It is a question we have to ask over and over again, as we seek to strike the right balance for each case.
But I do wonder what could be done to better keep the human aspect of global ‘supply chain disruption’ stories front of mind. The UK grocery sector is home to some of the smartest supply chain managers in the world – could we do more to put their knowledge and expertise to use in crises, to help relieve the desperate need for food, water and other supplies in certain parts of the world? Are we hearing enough about industry donations for emergency relief to some of the current crisis areas?
There has seldom been a better time to make this generosity come to the fore. I for one would love to hear about it. As, I am sure, would consumers.