KANSAS CITY — In addition to depressing equity markets and wreaking havoc with commodity futures, the spread of coronavirus has disrupted operations of U.S. agricultural export promotion groups in China and other severely affected nations.
Bryan Jernigan, director of communications at the U.S. Grains Council, told Milling & Baking News, “We are monitoring the coronavirus situation and soliciting updates from our staff overseas on the effects of it in their respective markets but want to keep them as safe as possible as they are our primary concern.
“We are taking precautions as advised or mandated by local authorities. Our staff in two countries — China and South Korea — are working from their homes and via the internet to continue the mission of the Council. We have postponed programs in China and Southeast Asia and cancelled international travel to affected areas. We have also moved staff members from our China office back to the United States, and each has gone through the mandatory, voluntary 14-day quarantine period.”
U.S. Wheat Associates has postponed two delegation visits, one of U.S. wheat breeders and the other comprising members of the U.S. Wheat Associates board of directors, to North and South Asian nations, said Amanda Spoo, director of communications. While neither group was traveling to China, U.S. Wheat staff from its China offices (Beijing and Hong Kong) were going to be involved.
“We do have other travel in April and May with people coming and going from the United States that we are looking at, and we will make decisions on these programs in the coming weeks,” Ms. Spoo said. “The biggest impact is the postponement of many activities for our staff on the ground in China. It really disrupts the cadence of activities that are built into our overall marketing strategy.”
USA Rice said its contractor staff in China worked from home for several weeks to avoid interpersonal contact. In the latest week, staff members alternated visiting the office to carry out essential tasks while still minimizing exposure.
“The next scheduled promotional event in China is the SIAL trade show on May 13-15 (in Shanghai), and so far, the organizers have not announced any plans to postpone, cancel, or take other actions that would affect staging of the show,” said Jim Guinn, director of Asian promotion programs at USA Rice. “USA Rice has reserved and paid for space at SIAL, and currently plans to participate if the coronavirus epidemic appears to be under control.”
At the same time, the Food & Beverage Asia exhibition, which was to be held in Singapore from March 31 to April 3, has been postponed, Mr. Guinn said. USA Rice had reserved and paid for space at that regional show, which attracts people from mostly Southeast Asian nations.
“We are continuing to monitor the latest developments on the coronavirus and the impact on U.S. agriculture commodities,” said Jim Sutter, chief executive officer of the U.S. Soybean Export Council. “This is an evolving health emergency, and we have taken the necessary steps to help safeguard our U.S.S.E.C. staff in China. Our thoughts are with our team members, partners, customers and the broader population impacted by this outbreak. It’s our hope that it is contained very soon and that those affected recover fully.”