Uncertainty is the Only Certainty

July 30, 2020

Author: Guy Soreq

“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.”
John Allen Paulos, Mathematician

Consumer demand in China seems to be gradually recovering from the impact of COVID-19. Prices of key ingredients in feed are heading back to their pre-pandemic levels, or at the very least stabilising. Reports from Hubei Province in China, once hard hit as the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, cite no new cases of the disease. While so many indicators appear to suggest a return to normalcy, Glowlit users are reporting troubling events that threaten to make the second half of 2020 as tumultuous as the first.

In Liaoning Province in northeast China, Dalian City is bracing itself to battle the new COVID-19 cluster linked to a local seafood processing company. With the world still reeling from the impact of coronavirus, a new virologic threat is already on the horizon. A new strain of the H1N1 swine flu virus appears to be spreading quietly among Chinese pig farmers. This new strain, known as G4 EA H1N1, has been present on pig farms since 2016. So far, it has successfully infected people without causing disease, but health experts warn that this could suddenly change without warning.

Along the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, another event of biblical proportions looms large with severe flooding and landslides following the heaviest torrential rains that China has seen in decades. Since the beginning of June, these historic floods have affected more than 45 million people in 27 provinces. In total, 33 rivers across China have now risen to their highest levels in history and 433 have risen beyond their warning levels. While China suffers from floods every year, these increasingly unpredictable weather patterns have made the task of managing them more challenging.

These provinces produce an important share of the global medical PPE supply, and are home to many of the world’s leading suppliers of animal feed additives. Even before we see disruptions in supply from these events, the very propagation of news regarding flooding and new disease outbreaks is likely to impact purchasing behavior. And then there are those proclaiming that these events are merely warning signs of things to come - that COVID-19 should be viewed as an opportunity to prepare for an even worse pandemic.

One thing is for sure, gone are the days of seasonal patterns that our industry, along with many others, has come to rely on. In the year 2020, uncertainty is the only certainty. We need to seek out tools and processes that allow us to function effectively alongside chaos. We need to examine and measure the entire supply chain to identify performance, risks, emerging issues, and opportunities. Steering through the flood waters of 2020 requires supply chain network optimization, in real-time.