World Grain - May 2020 - 40
FEATURE: CHINA GRAIN INDUSTRY REBOUNDING
Iranian millers adjusting to COVID-19 impact
Workers at KFF Mills in Iran are wearing safety equipment to protect against COVID-19 infection.
during the initial stages of the pandemic and gradually resumed to normalcy after the lockdown was lifted
later in March.
the pandemic to meet the demand of the grain processing plants and food manufacturers while taking extra
precautions in the day-to-day business operations to
keep employees and customers safe. The companies
suspended all company travel that was not businesscritical and limited visitors' access to facilities. Some
The local government worked with the companies to
issue the "Critical Industry Employee Authorization to
Travel" to help employees return to work. Some companies used company vehicles to pick up employees to
protect them from being infected by COVID-19. They
also had some employees stay in hotels or dormitories
instead of letting them live at home to prevent infection.
The working areas were disinfected every two hours,
and all employees were instructed to wear masks, avoid
gatherings, maintain social distance, check body temperature twice a day, wash hands with soap and use hand
sanitizer frequently. The drivers delivering goods were
instructed to remain in their trucks while plant employees
unloaded vehicles as a precautionary measure.
May 2020 / World Grain / www.World-Grain.com
Photo courtesy of KFF Mills.
As a longtime leader of the Middle East flour milling industry, Merzad Jamshidi, managing director of KFF Mills in Iran, has sat in on
hundreds of conference presentations addressing the long list of
challenges facing the global flour milling industry.
He noted that, to the best of his knowledge, the topic of a
global pandemic's impact on flour milling has never been on
the agenda. It almost certainly will be in future, as the unthinkable has occurred with the biggest global pandemic in more
than 100 years - the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) - spreading to virtually every country in the world, infecting more than
3.1 million people and killing hundreds of thousands more.
Iran was one of the first countries to see a significant spike in
cases after it was first detected in China in December. Fortunately,
the number of reported new cases and deaths in Iran have declined in recent weeks, but Jamshidi said the country's flour milling
industry is still feeling the impact of the pandemic. Several weeks
after the virus was detected in Iran, the government issued an official shelter-in-place order. Jamshidi said the quarantine measures
have altered the country's flour consumption patterns.
"The demand for home use flour surged slowly and KFF managed to come up with 3-kilogram and 5-kilogram bags of all mix
ready for home baked bread," Jamshidi said. "The most popular Iranian bread is a flat bread which, after baking, is physically
picked up by hand. This product was made for a non-experienced
home baker who can simply add water and bake it on a pan and
not even an oven. It has proven to be in big demand."
The impact on flour production is just part of the story, Jamshidi said.
"Given the complexity of the pandemic and the reaction of people, we had personnel taking voluntary leaves, and simply finding distribution trucks between cities was a challenge," he said.
"Also, in Iran cash still plays a big part in daily transactions. It was
banned by the government which said to strictly use debit cards.
That has created a big challenge in being able to get paid."
He said the Government Trading Corporation of Iran's wheat
imports had already begun when the outbreak in Iran started to
accelerate, and harvest had started in the southern provinces, enabling KFF Mills and other mills in Iran to secure enough raw material for daily grinding. However, he noted that with the increased
demand for flour, securing enough wheat is an ongoing challenge.
"Just-In-Time inventory causes a challenge during these events
and there is a big weight on the supply chain, which is easily
disrupted," he said. "Inventories should definitely be built with a
Iran is forecast to import 13.3 million tonnes of wheat in 201920, up from 12.5 million tonnes the previous year, according to
the US Department of Agriculture. It is projected to harvest 16.8
million tonnes of wheat in 2019-20.
The pandemic also is effecting the trade of flour, he noted.
"Traditional flour exporting countries are focusing on keeping
the commodity for their domestic consumption and have banned
exports, creating a new market," he said.
World Grain - May 2020
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