March 4, 2020


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

As the coronavirus has now spread to every continent in the world, with the exception of Antarctica, every country is now rushing to put into place safeguards to protect their citizens from the impacts of the virus.
To date, nearly 90,000 people have been infected in at least 67 countries and more than 3,000 people have died from the virus, which appeared first in China.
While the health risk to the public, especially to young children and the elderly who may be experiencing other health issues, is large, so far the virus is not all that deadly to healthy people. But the bad news is that an effective coronavirus vaccination could be at least 12 months away.
Fortunately for Americans, the United States has the best medical care in the world with some of the best healthcare professionals, which should prevent the rapid increase in the number of coronavirus cases that have been seen in other parts of the world.
But having the best medical care in the world still requires that people be cautious and avoid making trips out of the country where they could be exposed to the virus. (Think of the hundreds of cruise ship passengers who were exposed to the virus and then couldn’t leave the ship or receive adequate medical care as a good reason to stay in the United States.)
But, as we have seen, the coronavirus is not just the health risk. It is also a very serious risk to the world’s economy. In the months since it was first reported, stock markets have plunged across the world, the world economy has slowed, oil prices have dropped, the travel industry has been impacted, and virtually all shipments of goods and services between China and the rest of the world has pretty much ground to a halt.
In the last 18 years, two deadly world viruses - the SARS in 2002 and now the conoravirus - have had their origin in China. Both of these viruses not only threatened the public’s health, but also had negative impacts on the world economy.
As we have watched China’s factories and industries shut down because of the virus, hopefully the rest of the world’s businesses and industries have received a wake-up call that they cannot rely so heavily on one country to be the supply chain for the rest of the world.
The longer Chinese factories stay closed, the more likely that the world will face shortages in everything from cell phones, food and automobile parts to medical supplies, computers, and clothing.
Thanks to its very competitive nature and low wages, over the years, China has grown to be the world’s largest manufacturing economy and exporter of goods, while becoming the world’s fastest-growing consumer market and the second-largest importer of goods.
American, and world, businesses need to recognize that they must develop supply chains beside those in China to manufacture the products that drive their business.