30 October, 2020
Ukraine and Serbia are big exporters of wheat, maize, and other grains. Disruptions in their grain supply chains can have serious consequences on food security in many parts of the world.
To keep supply chains flowing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and ahead of the busy wheat and maize harvests, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is working with the Ukrainian Grain Association and Association Serbian Grains to deliver COVID-19 safety trainings and guidelines to staff at grain elevators and storage facilities.
Better biosecurity practices
Grain production is largely mechanized in Ukraine and Serbia, making it easier to comply with physical distancing protocols.
But distancing becomes trickier once farmers need to deliver their harvests to grain elevators and storage facilities. This often requires face-to-face interactions with transport companies, quality laboratories, and loading and unloading facilities.
FAO and the EBRD developed guidelines on COVID-19 safety adjustment measures and carried out four online technical trainings in Ukraine, reaching more than 500 grain elevators in Ukraine and 70 in Serbia with online and on-the-spot trainings and guidelines for employees and managers.
They also developed videos on good biosecurity practices amid COVID-19, including ones for critical control points like truck lines, grain sampling, testing, offloading, and access of outside personnel.
Nikolay Gorbachov, President of the Ukrainian Grain Association, commended the timeliness of the training.
“We are in unchartered territory with this pandemic. Last year, we exported roughly USD 9.6 billion worth of grain, becoming the world’s second largest exporter after the United States. That’s important revenue for our grain farmers and those working along the supply chain. Any major delays would be disastrous for our grain industry, livelihoods and the food security of importing countries,” he said.
Ratko Vukovic, Director of Operations at Kikinda Mill in Serbia, echoed those sentiments.
"We’ve managed to implement instructions from the guidelines in a very short time at all loading points within our company. The tips and advice are practical and easy to carry out, like the new scheme of movement of trucks in the silo circle, work shift rearrangements to avoid unnecessary contacts between employees and visitors, and workplace disinfection,” he said.
“We are able to keep our employees at all workplaces and truck drivers who enter the silo and mill circuit safe, while also making sure that grain flows are not interrupted,” he added.
Staple grains contribute significantly to global food security, with wheat, rice, and maize providing roughly 38 percent of the average daily calorie intake.
Timely technical advice and better biosecurity practices and preparedness can go a long way towards preventing a global health crisis from becoming a food crisis – making grain industries stronger, safer, and more resilient.
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