Top Disrupters of the Global Food Chain

The food and beverage industry has undergone significant changes over the last few decades. From the rise of e-commerce to the growing popularity of plant-based foods, consumers are looking for new, healthier options with faster delivery. Yet, the food system continues to face challenges from climate change, land degradation, water scarcity, and other environmental issues. Additionally, the rapidly growing global population places more pressure on distribution. Keep reading to learn more about the top disrupters of the global food chain.

Pandemics and Other Health Concerns

Pandemics and national health concerns can cause considerable disruption to the global food chain. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed and propagated many issues within the food chain. The movement of workers was significantly impacted due to many international and local travel advisories and restrictions. For example, the asparagus industry in central Europe relies largely on eastern European migrant workers. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented many of those workers from being able to participate in the harvest and planting. This scarcity of workers decreased the availability of asparagus worldwide and increased the cost to consumers and farmers. 

Additionally, many companies and farms had to close during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic due to sick workers. In May 2020, Tyson Foods was forced to close its largest pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa, because most of its employees were sick with coronavirus. This shutdown caused a shortage of frozen meats. 


Wars have disrupted agriculture throughout history. War can cut distributor chains, shut down manufacturing plants, and take laborers away. Exports often stall and put future harvests in question. 

War puts strain and pressure on food supplies and prices. Countries that rely on others for certain products, like corn and cooking oil, are greatly affected by war, even when the country is not involved. Shipping lines are often cut off by water and land, thus preventing trade. 

Equipment Manufacturing

Every part of the food supply chain utilizes equipment from manufacturing to farming to delivery. However, the materials used to make this equipment, such as steel, oil, and plastic, are in high demand. Delays in the production of necessary equipment further delay the production and delivery of food in the global food chain.

Drought, Flooding, and Wildfire

The global food chain’s disruptions are often unpredictable—prolonged drought, particularly in the summer, can cause havoc. With too much sun and insufficient water, many vegetables wilt and die off. Conversely, an overly rainy season can be just as damaging to crops. Flooding harms not only the plants themselves but also the land on which the crops are grown. Floods can erode fertile soil leaving a field desolate. Other natural disasters, like wildfires, hurricanes, tornados, and earthquakes, cause considerable disruptions in the global food chain beyond farming and production. These disasters can halt transportation, delivery, and distribution as well.

Animal Diseases

Animal diseases threaten the lives of millions of animals every day, and livestock is heavily relied upon in the food supply. Widespread diseases can decrease the availability of meat, dairy, and produce. In March 2017, 73,500 chickens were prematurely culled in Tennessee after bird flu infected the flock can chicken availability dropped.

How to Reduce Disruption in the Global Food Chain

While there is no way to protect your organization from global food chain disruptors, there are ways to reduce their effects. Communicating with all vendors in the supply chain is essential to improving visibility and resilience. This will allow every organization to be on the same page, thus reducing the number of bottlenecks in the supply chain.

Create a plan of action for common disrupters, like natural disasters and equipment failures. Make sure everyone on your team knows the protocol and is well versed in their duty should any disruptions occur.

The best way to protect your company from disruptions in the global food chain is to get the right insurance policies. Coughlin Insurance protects your food and beverage company from Product Recall Coverage to Pollution Liability Insurance, including supply chain issues. Reach out today to speak with an expert insurance agent!

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