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Tue 24 Mar 2020 08:27 AM

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Covid-19: The re-shaping of supply chains and why the UAE is ready for it

To safeguard industry and minimise disruption to food security we need to rethink, redesign and harness technology to strengthen our supply chains, writes Sean Dennis

Covid-19: The re-shaping of supply chains and why the UAE is ready for it

A partnership with Emirates SkyCargo has allowed Seafood Souq to minimise disruptions to its business and the food supply to buyers in the UAE.

The coronavirus is teaching the world a fast lesson in how fragile global supply chains and traditional sourcing methods can be.

With the global economy under fire, it makes a strong case for innovative tech-enabled business models that address conventional supply chain inefficiencies.

Nations are increasingly more reliant on familiar trade partners and when pandemics such as Covid-19 cripple production, cancel flights and close borders, the effects are devastating; particularly by industries where suppliers and distributors rely heavily on single source markets and for import based economies.

To safeguard industry and minimise disruption to food security we need to rethink, redesign and harness technology to strengthen our supply chains; innovation and technology is key.

‘The Coronavirus might be the unfortunate crisis that forces companies to accelerate the adoption of a true Digital Supply Chain’ (Forbes, 2020)

The digitisation and increased automation of traditional supply chain functions eliminates the unnecessary steps that too often cause the most tension for businesses in difficult climates. Technology helps increase their resilience to external shocks through the multiple efficiencies it brings.

The UAE’s adoption of technology and its strategic location has lent itself to being able to support countries in the region at this time.

Agility

 When common import channels are stifled by global pandemics, effective and adequate alternatives, beit local or international, need to be at the ready for immediate backup.

The shock to the global flow of goods is rattling many organizations (and nations) to their senses: it no longer makes sense to put all your processing eggs in one basket.

Having many international suppliers across all regions of the globe we have been able to easily pivot around trade route challenges and border restrictions at this time.

Singular supplier relationships may allow for cost competitiveness short term but opens businesses to high risk when that single source is threatened.

At this time where certain markets are restricted, open market places with a large basket of goods when it comes to source markets has meant that 89% of international suppliers on the Seafood Souq platform are still able to satisfy UAE demand. This paired with a partnership with Emirates SkyCargo has allowed us to minimise disruptions to our business and the food supply to buyers in the UAE.

Digitisation

When global supplies are threatened it’s important to see the value in ‘home-grown’ innovative aquaculture methods as an alternative to solely relying on purely internationally sourced seafood.

There’s been an investment and innovation wave in aquaculture and urban farming in the UAE over the past decade in the interest of food security.

This is great news for when we are forced to look to be less reliant on globalisation, and become more self-sufficient - but how do buyers have access to these local markets?

The UAE has already started to move to digitising these markets, one of these projects being the partnership with Seafood Souq and Sahab for Souq Al Jubail fish market.

Building a platform similar to that of  ‘Fulton fish market’ in the USA - the nation’s largest and second-oldest continuously operating fish market.

Within 2 years of launching the company’s revenue was expected to top $10 million and continue to double every year. (Yahoo Finance, 2019)

At a time where many countries are going into forced lockdowns businesses with online capabilities for ordering are thriving. The UAE has one of the fastest growing e-commerce markets (Gulf news, 2020) and so regardless of times of crisis businesses need to think about adopting technologies into their business to access this untapped potential.

Efficiency

As COVID-19 continues to strain resource management and capital expenditure, cost savings and waste reductions become critical. More direct and more efficient channels become the best way to achieve this.

In addition, as awareness of germs and focus on extra hygiene precautions increases, consumers will be conscious of minimising the exchange of hands their products pass through. Supply chain transparency is vital and in turn applies pressure to minimise unnecessary risk created by multiple exposures.

Businesses are often unaware of what’s happening across their supply chain beyond the first tier, so they’re unable to know where threats to production capacity exist’ (Supply Chain Digital, 2020)

The topic sensibly leads to a digital discussion -- from inventory to traceability systems (SFS trace). As we progressively reduce interacting face-to-face, not just with our colleagues, but with clients as well, automation and digitisation is no longer a bell and whistle; it’s imperative for businesses to implement to ensure survival.

Diversified globalisation

The COVID-19 global pandemic has swiftly brought to attention the need for businesses and regions to take faster steps towards the adoption of technology and smarter risk competitive business models.

Even through the other side of this pandemic there are constantly potential disruptions that threaten global supply chains, from climate change to health pandemics, political disruption and trade conflicts; businesses need to have the capabilities to swiftly change locations in what Forbes calls ‘Nomadic sourcing.’

This isn’t about reversing globalisation but changing it, improving it and using advancements in technology to re-shape and strengthen the fragility of supply chains, not only so they can survive in times of crisis but can increase their revenue when it’s business as usual.

By treating technology as a utility not a luxury, the UAE has secured itself during this time of crisis. On top of that, being so importantly located and positioned as a global logistics hub, Dubai and  Seafood Souq aim to be part of the lead movement for change and adoption of a more efficient supply chain both for globalisation and localised trade.

Sean Dennis is CEO of Seafood Souq

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