Global meat supplies have been largely undisrupted despite a major cyber-attack on JBS meats earlier this month.
The world’s largest meat supplier was forced to shut down meat processing operations across the world, including North America and 47 locations in Australia, after hackers took over JBS Meat’s computer network, demanding a ransom in return for restored access.
According to agriculture minister David Littleproud, the attack affected the system used by JBS to manage quality assurance standards of processed meats, causing the company to suspend production until the software was restored.
Initial concerns about the shortage of meats had been contained by JBS who said that stock on hand would be able to manage the requirements of their US market. The Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) said that it was highly unlikely that the domestic supply chain would be affected.
“The Australian meat industry has systems in place across the supply chain to deal with these types of issues, including managing livestock through the system effectively and access to cold storage for meat supply,” said Patrick Hutchinson, chief executive of AMIC.
“The strength and flexibility of the red meat and pork products supply chain has been demonstrated in the past on market access issues and Covid-19 impacts. That is why we are world-renowned as the most reliable meat supply chain globally.”
Tracking the Hackers
While the company worked to get their systems back online, American, Canadian and Australian authorities worked to determine the legitimacy of JBS’ claims that the hackers were members of a Russian criminal gang.
“The White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the messages that responsible states do not harbour ransomware criminals,” said White House spokeswoman Karina Jean-Pierre.
Since then, the FBI has named Russian gang REvil – also known as Sodinokibi – as the group responsible for the cyberattack.
While JBS operations were back online within days, the hack has highlighted the potential damage cyberattacks can have on agricultural supply chains, global food supply and pricing.
“JBS are a significant global and local player in the meat processing space, so if the effects of the attack are extended it could become problematic,” said Matt Dalgleish, manager of commodity market insights at Thomas Elder Markets.
As the major exporter of Australian beef and sheep meat products, interruptions to JBS’ supply continuity could have a significant impact on domestic revenue and trade relationships.
Mr Dalgliesh said that while other Australian meat processors could ramp up production to fill the gap, longer term supply chain issues could cause a 5-10 per cent rise in the price of supermarket meat.
JBS’ Dinmore facility in Queensland is the largest beef processing facility in the Southern Hemisphere and the company employs 11,000 workers in Australia and New Zealand alone.
Revenue from their Australian and New Zealand operations make up just 4 per cent of their global revenue.