Now is the right time to rethink food-supply chains. As the expected shocks from climate change (longer droughts, more floods, etc.) we need to place greater weight on resilience. The question is whether we build resilience through decentralized market mechanisms or by command. In both cases credible real-time data are needed for decisions by all actors in supply chains.
Since 2006, LIRNEasia has been studying fruit and vegetable supply chains in Sri Lanka centred on Sri Lanka’s largest wholesale market in Dambulla which was recently shut down by the Government along with several other wholesale markets.
The closures were preceded by scenes of massive oversupply, frustrated farmers throwing away unsold produce in large quantities, claims that the traditional traders were exploitative “middlemen,” and counterclaims that politicians were seeking to replace them with their own middlemen, and so on.
At the other end, consumers confined to their homes were complaining not only of difficulties in obtaining supplies but also in some cases of low quality and high prices. The Government’s response included short-term efforts to purchase unsaleable produce directly from farmers and to distribute through government channels. Understandably, it has been difficult to build supply chains from scratch in these strained circumstances.