COVID-19 Impact on Tahini in the Food and Beverages Industry
COVID-19 pandemic has affected the nutritional progress of many countries around the world. COVID-19 has several adverse effects on the most vulnerable groups of the world population which includes adults more than 60 years, children under the age of 12 years, and mothers. Malnutrition is a major problem across the globe and due to extended lockdowns in the countries the cases of malnutrition have increased. Thus, the global population is focusing on building their immunity levels during the covid-19. Tahini is very high in nutrition which is driving the growth of the tahini market during the COVID-19 pandemic.
High Nutrition Content of Tahini
Tahini is a rich source of nutrition such as healthy fats, minerals, and vitamins. It is a great source of phosphorous and manganese which have an important role in the health of bones. It is also high in thiamine such as vitamin B1 and vitamin B6 which are important for the production of energy. Thus, the demand for tahini was more during the COVID-19 pandemic for boosting the immune system. Additionally, about 50% of the fat in tahini comes from monounsaturated fatty acids which have anti-inflammatory properties and are linked to decrease the risk of chronic disease. According to World Health Organization (WHO), no food could prevent or treat coronavirus transmission alone; a healthy and balanced diet has been proven to strengthen the immune system along with physical activity and healthy sleeping habits, also WHO has recommended tahini as a part of the meal to prevent the infection of COVID-19. Thus, the high nutrition content of the tahini is boosting the demand for tahini during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Disruption of Supply Chain during COVID-19 Pandemic
The safety measures which are being taken to restrict or prevent the spread of COVID-19 are affecting the functioning of tahini food supply chains. Measures to restrict the spread of the COVID-19 are causing disruptions and delays to logistics and to transport services. Border closures and additional quality checks and procedures have led to delays and congestion affecting the transit of food products including tahini products. For instance, social distancing rules have decreased the numbers of export and import inspectors at borders which has increased the time required for customs clearance.
Retailers are expected to stockpile the tahini products and may offer the products at higher prices owing to increasing consumer demand and deal with the challenge of a possible supply shortage. Retailers are experiencing a high impact of COVID-19 owing to reduced food fall of consumers and irregular supply of tahini products from manufacturers and distributors and the situation may become worse for the smaller retailers offering tahini products. Due to the prevention of mass gathering and social distancing norms, the foodservice industry such as restaurants which are a major customer of tahini is experiencing a high impact of COVID-19.
Allergies Related to Sesame Seeds
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sesame allergies are common among children along with other food allergies which are estimated at 17% of the population. More than 1.5 million children and adults in the U.S. (49% of the population) report a current sesame allergy and more than 1.1 million (34% of the population) report either a physician-diagnosed sesame allergy or a history of sesame-allergic reaction symptoms, the study found. The scientists found that 15 (13%) of the 119 children were sesame-allergic, 73 (61%) were sesame-tolerant, and sesame-allergic status could not be determined for 31 (26%) children, mainly because they declined the oral food challenge. Among the 88 children whose sesame-allergic status was definitive, 17% had a sesame allergy. Thus, the increasing allergies of sesame seeds among children have restricted the consumption of tahini during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Price Fluctuation of Sesame Seeds during COVID-19
During the year 2013 and early 2014, the prices of sesame seeds were peaked at just over USD 3,000 per tonnes of hulled sesame seeds. The prices of sesame seeds have decreased during the past years due to the high production of sesame worldwide. In 2018-2019, the prices have significantly decreased to around USD 1,600 per tonnes and hulled seeds for an average of US$ 2,000 per tonnes. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has raised market instability due to a disrupted supply chain. The demand for sesame seeds and their products has reduced during COVID-19 because of the reduced businesses of restaurants and small bakeries. Also, the lockdowns in India, China, and Africa has a strong influence on the international trade flows as these are the main importers of the sesame seeds. Due to this, there might be a little effect on the sesame seeds prices and demand and supply of the sesame seeds. The prices of sesame seeds are expected to go down especially for the old stock of sesame seeds.
For instance, according to Mr. Mukul Gupta, the director of Shakumbhri Expo Impo Ltd in India, prices are expected to remain between 1,000 and 1,400 USD per tonnes for natural seeds and 1,500 to 1,750 USD per tonnes for hulled seeds.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working together to support the U.S. food and agriculture sector. The government has also announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to prevent interruptions and help FDA-regulated food facilities. The MOU has created a process for the two agencies to make determinations about circumstances in which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can exercise its authority under the Defense Production Act (DPA) about certain domestic food resource facilities that process, manufacture, pack, and hold foods. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will continuously work with local and state regulators collaboratively to ensure the continuity of food supply. It will work in consultation with the industry or commodity sector, public health partners, local, state, and tribal territorial regulatory, and other relevant stakeholders to maintain food operations keeping employees safe.
In April 2020, the ministers for agriculture of African Union member states publicly committed to reduce the food system disruptions and ensure nutrition and food security to all the people, particularly the most vulnerable and the poorest during and also post COVID-19 pandemic situation. The ministers ordered governments to consider the food and agriculture system as an essential service and work with various food systems which include traditional (small stores and open markets) and informal (street vendors).
To move their products to market, Growth, Enterprise, Employment and Livelihoods (GEEL) program linked Somali suppliers to international buyers at regional trade shows in Istanbul and Dubai. Despite trade challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, sesame partner companies have reported exports of up to 14 metric tons of processed sesame worth USD 20 million this year. This is an increase of 29 percent compared to 2018.
El Mostakbal for Urban Development, the master developer behind Mostakbal City, has donated EGP 5m to the Tahya Misr Fund. The donation will go to support the fund’s efforts in mitigating the impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The fund has launched three large food convoys, through which about 6,600 tonnes of food, 170 tonnes of meat, 150 tonnes of poultry, 160 tonnes of vegetables, and 300,000 Tahini bars were delivered to over 500,000 families. The initiative was launched in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Solidarity and various civil society organizations.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have an intense impact on the tahini industry, including global trade, consumption, and manufacturing or production. Owing to the government’s initiatives such as complete or partial lockdown in various countries, consumption of tahini from food service establishments has decreased significantly. To restrict the spread of the COVID-19, hotels, restaurants, and retail shops have been closed. A more adverse impact on the tahini demand is expected owing to the global recession triggered by the indirect and direct impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reduced household incomes could translate into lower demand for tahini in volume terms. All the tahini manufacturing companies’ are suffering during the time of COVID-19. Disrupted supply chain and reduced demand are some of the major factors that manufacturers are facing due to COVID-19. Once the pandemic situation settles the companies will find it imperative to change with time and innovate to remain relevant. There is a seismic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses across the globe. However, this is also an opportunity to fine-tune business contingency and continuity plans, to find new ways to grow business. The factors such as the high nutrition content of the tahini are boosting the demand for tahini during the COVID-19 pandemic because people are becoming more health-conscious than earlier. But, the allergic reactions associated with the consumption of sesame seeds in a large population are limiting the demand for tahini during the COVID-19 pandemic situation.