Seed World

Expect a Slow Recovery for Supply Chains

As the Women in Ag Summit comes around the corner, Cynthia Stanton gives Seed World some insight on supply chains in the U.S.

Supply chain disruptions haven’t left anyone immune — from mom-and-pop companies to multinationals, everyone has faced some form of disruption to shake up the seed sector. Even companies like BASF, says Cynthia Stanton, head of Supply Chain Operations North America Agricultural Solutions for BASF.

“We’re experiencing some of the same disruptions, and lead times on deliveries are just much worse than they’ve been,” she says. “It was difficult at first with the initial shock.”

Major disruptions have included extreme weather events in the U.S., such as the Texas freeze and Hurricane Ida, as well as flooding and droughts in Europe.

“Between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, there are 150 chemical companies,” Stanton says. “That’s a lot of the building blocks of our industry — so that created a lot of force majeure situations for raw materials that were commodities no one thought about until you didn’t have them.”

When coupled with a whiplash of much needed demand in 2021 and 2022 as the globe recovers from COVID-19, supply chains have taken a major blow.

Cynthia Stanton serves as head of Supply Chain Operations North America Agricultural Solutions for BASF.

When COVID first started, companies and businesses around the world had to shift to respond — anywhere from Oreos to oil to air travel. Stanton says the predicted recovery time in 2020 was four to five years before growth demand would be fully back to normal. But, as the world can see, that wasn’t how it played out.

“When those demands surged back, you had a whiplash effect. Now, your supply chains that are still in some cases in the process of winding down need to ramp up production,” she says. “And, they just couldn’t do it that quickly, whether it was labor or production.”

Instead, now it’s the attempt to find a balancing act, with companies asking: How can you balance out the supply to meet the demand, especially when supplies are still recovering from the shock?

“Supply chains are always trying to keep things in balance,” Stanton says. “You’re always trying to balance supply and demand. You don’t want too much because then everyone is concerned about inventory and capital costs.”

But, Stanton’s advice if you’re still battling difficulties with supply chains? Be upfront and transparent with your stakeholders. While it might be a difficult conversation to have with your customers, an unpleasant conversation is better than failing to meet demand.

“There’s only so much in some cases that you’re going to be able to do, but I think communicating expectations early, even if it wasn’t the best news, at least allowed our customers to plan better,” she says. “There’s a lot of concern about upsetting customers by telling them you can’t do something or meet everything that they want. In reality, I think everyone’s aware of the challenges. If you can plan together, that overall means you’ll have a better outcome.”

In the meantime, the globe is in for supply chain disruptions for the long haul — Stanton believes that while there’s some optimism that supply chains are recovering, it will take a long time.

“I get asked all the time: ‘So, when is it going to go back to normal?'” she says. “We’re seeing something more like a slow recovery, not something that gets immediately fixed and is perfect. We’re going to be operating this way for several years.”

Stanton will be speaking on Monday, Sept. 26 at the Women in Ag Summit in Dallas, Texas, on supply chains. Specifically, she’s going to look historically at what happened to cause global supply chain crises, what we’ve been living through and a prediction as to a recovery. Make sure to tune in to her session at the conference.

Want to read more about supply chains? Visit:

The World is Getting Used to Abnormal Supply Chains

Supply Chains on the Right Trajectory for Correction

Don’t Hoard Chemicals Amid Supply Chain Crunch

Inflation has Far Reaching Arms in Agriculture