We’re currently experiencing unprecedented times. Our world has changed dramatically, as COVID-19 has disrupted our lives in ways that most of us could never have imagined. As a provider of an affordable source of protein, the poultry industry is seeing its share of difficulties – and one issue is the difficulty in getting a vital food source to producers and ultimately consumers around the world.

The good news is by working together as an industry we can make great strides in keeping the food supply chain open.

Internationally acclaimed business consultant and author Idowu Koyenikan once wrote, “There is immense power when a group of people with similar interests gets together to work toward the same goals.” 

With these words he summed up our way to success. The poultry industry, government and industry associations must work together to facilitate trade and keep the supply chain open. Doing so may require some sacrifices and may even mean creating some unlikely alliances and partnerships.

Speak up

For the world’s farmers and other poultry producers, they must petition their local agricultural ministries and governments to open their borders to agricultural commerce. Freight routes for international trade need to be opened and in-country transportation of chicks secured, while measures are implemented to protect essential workers and prevent the spread of the virus further.

The only tool we have is the resolve of producers to help one another for the betterment of the industry as a whole and the people who depend on us. For poultry breeding companies, cooperation may look like sharing cargo space on an airline or pooling our resources to improve chick handling at departure and receiving points around the world.

What’s more, company-decision makers and influencers have to become actively involved to make their voices heard with associations such as the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), the Animal Transportation Association (ATA), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the International Poultry Council (IPC) and the European Union Commission.

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To minimize supply chain disruption, the industry must make its voice heard with national, international and trade organizations. | Courtesy Aviagen

These organizations can use their influence with governments and airlines to keep open major trade routes and make sure adequately trained freight handlers are available to give the best care to birds during their journeys.

We’re all in this together

The human cost of COVID-19 has been devastating and cannot be understated. The disease knows no borders, ravaging families and societies everywhere. Its negative effects have rippled to create a host of other issues that threaten health and well-being around the world. Restaurants are closed, while grocery stores are rationing purchases due to shortages.

The problems associated with COVID-19 are being amplified across developing countries, as some do not have funds to stockpile food. The rippling effect continues, as hunger and malnutrition heighten vulnerability to the virus and other diseases.

The United Nations has named Zero Hunger and Good Health and Wellbeing as two of its sustainability goals. These objectives are as relevant as ever and the poultry breeding industry shares a similar vision.

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Toward this mission, primary breeders ship breeding stock in the form of day-old chicks and hatching eggs to food producers around the world. The stock is multiplied in each country, as a two-pallet airline shipment of chicks equates to 10 million pounds of poultry meat for consumers. The lean protein supplied by chicken contributes to a healthy diet and strong immune systems - especially important at this critical time.

Unfortunately, border closures, flight cancellations and limited trade routes, as well as restricted inland travel, are obstructing the ability to get breeding stock to the world’s farmers and, in turn, severely impact global supplies of this valuable food source. It no longer seems probable that the pandemic will blow over in a few months. A more likely scenario is a disruption to normal commerce around the world into the second half of this year, making working together to find solutions imperative.

United we stand

It is now more important than ever to band together as an industry to successfully emerge on the other side of this pandemic. We are living in a defining moment  – one where history will judge us based on our ability to coordinate our efforts across borders, governments and industry for the good of people today and of generations to come.