(Aug. 2) The Ottawa-based Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association played host to the second part of their Web seminar on avian influenza Aug. 1.

Melanie Herman, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Nonprofit Risk Management Center, and Gordan Cherry, director of trade and commercial policy for the Mississauga, Ontario-based Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, spoke during the seminar, “Business Continuity Planning and Pandemic Solutions.”

Both speakers quoted studies estimating an absentee workforce of up to 70% in the U.S.

According to the the Congressional Budget Office’s “A Potential Influenza Pandemic: Possible Macroeconomic Effects and Policy Issues,” in a severe pandemic scenario, the agriculture industry could suffer a 10% decline in demand. In a mild scenario, about 3% decline. The foodservice industry could see declines in demand of 80% in a severe pandemic.

Herman said if poultry consumption declines, fresh produce consumption could increase, but in the case of consumers stocking nonperishable food, fresh produce probably would not be selected.

The seminar suggested companies develop a business continuity plan in case of business interruptions. The plan should incorporate responses to mild interruptions to severe catastrophes such as the pandemic, Herman said.

Herman said to think broadly in terms of who or what the pandemic could effect, such as a company’s workforce, suppliers and customers.