Public-private link: Food South Australia highlights technology in helping F&B businesses tackle COVID-19 impacts
Food South Australia (Food SA) represents businesses with a stake in the Southern Australian state, and is unique in its state-specific focus and government-approved annual strategies.
All Food SA members are local South Australian companies, or have a stake in the state with at least a manufacturing facility located there.
“In the midst of this COVID-19 crisis, technological tools have become a major platform for Food SA to help our local F&B industry, in three major ways: Feedback to government, recommending safe protocols and providing finance and cashflow tools,” Food SA CEO Catherine Sayer told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“We have set up a portal on our website for all businesses, not just those in South Australia, to feedback how COVID-19 is affecting them, and what sort of further help they still require. We have been appointed to the Premier's Industry Response and Recovery Council that is working to tackle COVID-19, so we then take this grassroots-level feedback and directly send it to the government.
“The government has so far provided lots of support and packages, but the aim here is to identify any remaining gaps so as to use the feedback to further refine this support for the F&B industry.”
The other technological resources that Food SA have put on their website include an information source centre on COVID-19, gathering together suggested protocols for businesses to adhere to and other updates; and a tool to help with finances and cashflow.
“The protocol we are using is actually modified from the Australian Chicken Meat Federation, which has been adapted for general use by all F&B businesses,” Sayer said.
“This protocol has the support of the Australian health department, so following its processed means that the health department will be more likely to look favourably upon a business.
“Basically, overall the idea is to be a trusted source of information about this crisis for F&B businesses, and to help those that need it but don’t know where to turn to, such as individual, small firms.”
Online selling help
In addition to tools to get though the crisis, Food SA has also attempted to help local businesses expand their online sales by tapping on its existing Eat Local SA platform, a site previously focusing on celebrating local food, helping people to understand local food products and mostly food service focused.
“What we have done is launched a new Online Marketplace both on East Local SA and our website to increase businesses’ direct interface with consumers,” Sayer added.
“We have expanded this to include food manufacturers here as well so they can have more direct consumer interface and sell their products directly.
“Consumers across the state will be able to find businesses that can deliver a range of food and beverage products [to their homes, so] it’s another option for consumers to access South Australian produce and products, especially for those unable to physically get to shops.”
Panic-buying in Australia
Earlier in the year, Australia was hit by panicked consumers rushing to stock shelves with items such as rice, pasta and tinned foods when it became evident that the country was going to see movement restrictions being imposed – a situation Sayer said is completely unnecessary.
“Australia has 26 to 27 million people, but enough food for 70 million. We’re never going to run out,” she said.
“It was more the anxiety when everyone was faced with a situation that had never been experienced before, not real food shortages.”
Things have now ‘calmed down’, and with supermarkets having imposed entry and purchasing restrictions, it has gotten much more orderly.
“Food is undoubtedly an essential service, no matter what. Australia was one of the last countries in the world to get COVID-19, and we have learnt a lot from the rest of the world, so now we must apply these lessons to avoid any more significant problems from emerging,” Sayer concluded.