By Craig Stauffer
27 March 2023

From The CEO’s Desk: Food Scarcity 

We continue our ‘From the CEO’s Desk’ series with Craig Stauffer, talking about the growing discussion around food scarcity. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic and the infamous toilet paper shortage, empty grocery store shelves were a a common sight. Food scarcity is a growing concern worldwide and it is partly due to the disruptions in supply chains caused by the pandemic. 

Q: At the start of the pandemic, we quickly started to see a shocking number of empty shelves at grocery stores. What was the root of the emptiness? Was it a supply chain issue, fear hoarding, or a combination of both? 

Craig: It was indeed a shock to see empty shelves. We witnessed the best of folks helping each other, and how the fear of not having enough staples drove some to hoard and others to engage in other similar activities. However, the primary reason for the empty shelves was a supply chain issue.  Our supply chains are designed to support a “just-in-time delivery” system and when the pandemic hit, these supply chains broke down, making it impossible to deliver goods just-in time. 

Q: Did the hoarding and bulk buying worsen the supply chain blockage, or would it have happened regardless? 

Craig: Although the hoarding and bulk buying did highlight how delicate and intricate supply chains really are, the disruptions made it difficult to meet the sudden surges in demand, regardless of these actions. 

Q: Can you think of a time before 2020 that a similar food scarcity issue occurred?  

Craig: Food scarcity can be defined in several ways. Were people going hungry and living in so-called ‘food deserts’ before 2020? Sadly, yes. As everyone along the supply chain has to run their business profitably, pushing costs of inventory too far down the supply chain was certainly part of the problem. 

Q: Now that the pandemic has largely passed, it is rare to see a toilet paper aisle empty. With that said, there are still the occasional shortages or hard to find products. What is the cause of this right now? 

Craig: These shortages are due to the movement of import and export containers in different ports. It is going to take time to for these movements to occur at the right time and fully recover. 

Q:  The last few years have reminded us about vulnerability no matter the cause – supply chain, pandemic or otherwise. We are seeing more extreme weather events much more frequently that stresses our supply chain and food growing systems. Foreshadowing, do you see more incidents of food scarcity in the years ahead or are organizations more resilient coming out of the pandemic? 

Craig: – The answer is likely “yes” to all the above. Global food producers have been forced to become the pivot masters to survive. In the future we may see supplies coming from new countries and from new growing systems.  

Q: Can you speak to how Vanguard’s supply chain is set up with its global reach to react and respond to global supply chain issues? 

Craig: Vanguard’s business model has always focused on the importance of a resilient supply chain. We support global growers, and we have built, and maintain important relationships with ocean, air, and land carriers. Vanguard’s global presence with offices in Chile, Peru, South Africa, China, Taiwan, and Indonesia speak volumes of how strongly Vanguard is positioned for the future.  Vanguard’s recent partnership with RK Growers in Italy is a great example of our strength in future proofing our ability to deliver what our customers demand. We also established vertical integration with ranches in Peru, which has made us even stronger, better informed, and ready for the future to meet our growers’ and customers’ needs and requirements.  

As we have seen, food scarcity is no stranger in 2023. Food scarcity is a complex issue affecting millions of people worldwide. Several factors contribute to the issue, including the fragility of supply chains, different approaches to supply chain management, and the movement of imports and exports through countless global ports. Vanguard has an approach that focuses on relationships, just-in time delivery, and satisfying our customers’ demands to ensure that we can continue to meet their needs in the years ahead.