UZWIL, SWITZERLAND — With growing concern about the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), some grain industry conference organizers have rescheduled while others plan to stay the course for now.

On March 3, Victam Corporation and VIV Worldwide announced the postponement of the Victam and Animal Health and Nutrition Asia conference. The event, which had been scheduled for March 24-26 in Bangkok, Thailand, will be moved to July 9-11 at the same location.

In a letter to its delegates and exhibitors, the organizations noted that the risk assessment from the World Health Organization for travel to Thailand changed from “high” to “very high” on Feb. 28.

“This decision has been taken after careful consideration and in the interest of exhibitors and visitors and, above all, to protect the health of all attendees,” Victam said. “The organizers assessed that the actual situation will not guarantee the quality of the exhibition and will not create enough business opportunities for our exhibitors and visitors under the current circumstances. Eighty percent of the exhibitors also agreed with organizers that the postponement of the event is the best solution and have therefore confirmed the decision to move their participation to July 2020, trusting that the situation will improve during the next few months.”

Two other grain industry events were recently postponed due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. VIV MEA moved its Abu Dhabi event from March to Aug. 31-Sept. 2, and Global Grain Asia, which was originally scheduled for March 9-11 in Singapore, has been moved to June 16-18.

-The VIV MEA management team said it decided to postpone the event after the World Health Organization changed the risk assessment for the regional and global level from high to very high.

Events in the United States, including GEAPS Exchange, set for March 21-24, and the International Association of Operative Millers Annual Conference, April 7-9, are set to go on as planned.

GEAPS is not planning on canceling Exchange, which is in Minneapolis, Minnesota, US, but said the situation is fluid and it will address developments as they come up.

“The convention center has ordered more hand washing and sanitation stations for the show and we are being mindful of developments,” said Steve Records, executive director of GEAPS. “Currently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not recommend cancelling travel within the US. There have been no documented cases in Minnesota, or the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. We know that the MSP airport is taking additional precautions to prevent the spread of this disease.”

Currently, Records said they do not expect a significant impact on attendance.

“We are proceeding with the full program as planned and will adjust to any new developments as they come up,” he said.

IAOM organizers said they are not planning on canceling the annual conference, which is scheduled for April 7-9 in Portland, Oregon, US. They are closely following announcements by the CDC and the World Health Organization.  

“We have reached out to the authorities in Portland to discuss the current situation and plans for how to handle any potential risks,” said Melinda Farris, executive vice president of the IAOM. “We will also discuss with the hotel and convention center ways in which risks can be mitigated, based on the information that is provided by public health officials.”

Members and others in the industry have contacted IAOM about the virus and their concerns.

“I think everyone understands that the situation is fluid, and what may be correct today might need revisiting as the conference dates draw nearer,” Farris said. “We know that some of those who have attended from certain countries in the past won’t be able to attend this year due to travel restrictions and bans. For that reason alone, the virus will impact attendance.”

As of March 3, COVID-19, which was first detected in China in December 2019, had infected more than 92,000 people worldwide and killed more than 3,000.