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BBC World interviews Crown Agents on procurement response to the pandemic /

Crown Agents was invited to talk to BBC’s David Eades about the complex challenges of procuring and shipping essential goods during the COVID-19 pandemic, via an online interview for BBC World on Thursday, 28 May 2020.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Crown Agents have procured and distributed over 300 shipments of cargo that includes 625,000 kgs of medical equipment, including PPE, life-saving drugs and medical supplies. Crown Agents work closely with the Ministry of Health in Ukraine, the Caribbean Development Bank, countries on the African continent and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. To date, goods have been sent to 45 countries and Overseas Territories, supporting areas with strained health systems and remote, hard to reach regions.

The global spread of the virus has fostered a challenging environment in which to operate supply chain and logistics. Fergus Drake, Crown Agents Chief Executive Officer, joined David Eades to highlight key difficulties our teams are facing and how we are responding, particularly in ensuring that less wealthy countries have access to PPE at a price they can afford.

“There are massive challenges, it feels a bit like the Wild West in the procurement market at the moment, with those with the deepest pockets who can place the largest orders going to the front of the queue.”

“Our mantra at Crown Agents is very much to leave no one behind so we are working with a network of suppliers around the world to ensure that countries which can only place smaller orders are able to get the vital PPE they need.”

Explaining that the rises in price are a combination of a variety of factors, such as scarcity and economies of scale, Fergus states that the cost of air transportation of PPE has also risen substantively. In addition, Crown Agents also had to navigate export bans earlier in the year, which have now been lifted.

Looking into the future, Fergus notes that Crown Agents plan to maintain their level of PPE procurement supply work for the next 18 months at least, with Africa still expecting to peak and with the potential of Europe entering repeated outbreak spikes.