The Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) which is the pandemic currently ravaging the globe is a contagious and fatal respiratory illness that has so far spread to over 210 countries.
Even though COVID-19 is not known to spread through food, it is however essential to adopt safety precautions among employees using a 3-pronged approach of facemasks, frequent and proper handwashing and social distancing as a set of protective measures to greatly reduce chances of infection for employees and reduce the spread of the virus. Other risk management such as body temperature checks before entering facilities, closure to visitors and non-essential contractors, increased frequency of cleaning and sanitizing of regularly touched surfaces such as door handles should be implemented in addition to the WHO-recommended quarantine, use of alcohol-based sanitizers and use of hand gloves.
The lockdown and social distancing poses many challenges for businesses and SMEs in the food industry and indeed every other Industry. These include supplier’s inability to deliver raw materials, high cost of production, inaccessibility to markets, low sales, low revenue, inability to service loans, salary cuts and/or down-sizing and facilities shutting-down. Despite the challenges, SMEs can leverage technology and the virtual space for meetings, networking and e-commerce. Other strategies to strengthen
SMEs operations include collaborations and partnerships, self-regulation, training, strong financial management system and controlled budget, digitalized agribusiness, tax integrity, keeping proper business records and transparent operations, efficient logistics, aggregation, supply, and distribution. A structured business concern will in turn enable financial institutions and government to grant access to loans and credit facilities more readily post-pandemic.
Paying attention to and implementing all of these, can greatly assist in softening the impact of the pandemic on SMEs in the food and other industries.