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Haifa during Corona days - an interview with the Group's CEO Motti Levin

"During the crisis, not only did production in the factory not slow down, it even increased, the facilities broke production records and all the goods reached their destinations successfully."

In order to hear about the company's conduct during the Corona crisis, we interviewed Mr. Motti Levin, CEO of the Haifa Group. Motti described how the company was prepared for the crisis ahead of time, which allowed it to function well during it.

ראיון עם מוטי לוין מנכ"ל קבוצת חיפה

"Haifa is a company that has gone through a lot of crises over the years, and therefore dealing with crisis situations is deeply burned into the DNA of the company and its people," Motti explains. "The company operates with caution, trying to anticipate various scenarios and plan ahead. For example, in 2017 there were seven months in which the factories in Israel, which produce the vast majority of the company's products, did not operate at all, and yet the company continued to function."


When did the company start preparing for the crisis?
"When the early signs of the epidemic in China started appearing we assessed the situation, we realized that something of a different magnitude was happening here and we started preparing for a global epidemic: we increased raw material procurement that we anticipated that their supply would be impaired due to production and transportation problems, we refined procedures at our manufacturing sites around the world, and of course got our Vital Plant certificate renewed. Haifa is a vital company in the food supply chain.


What actions did the company take when the crisis began?

"As mentioned, when the Corona epidemic spread outside of China, there were indications that this was an event that had not happened in the last 100 years. We immediately started remote work procedures, which resulted in a complete cessation of office use and our employees, in all 16 countries where we have subsidiaries, switched to home office mode. In addition, we stopped all activities which are not producing products to our customers, such as huge projects at the Mishor Rotem plant, thereby significantly reducing the entry of contractor workers into the plants. We also banned business trips to countries where the virus began to break out, and cancelled unnecessary travel. I remind, Haifa is an international company with 16 subsidiaries, 4 factories, and therefore the mobility of our people around the world is an important part of our work. "

What were the instructions for employees?

"In mid-February, all Haifa employees around the world were instructed to work from home, except for factory production employees. It is important to note that the supply of fertilizers to farmers worldwide was not harmed, but agronomists were subject to restrictions, including the ban on meeting growers, except in cases of emergency where our agronomists were required to be present in the field. In Israel, our agronomists received an over-all permit to go anywhere while maintaining social distancing. They could visit plots and handle trials and complaints, but avoided face-to-face meetings with farmers.

At our production site on Mishor Rotem, activity has changed dramatically. To minimize the risk to employees while still ensuring production goals, we reduced the number of shifts to two a day, with each shift lasting 12 hours, and employees divided into regular groups (capsules). Switching shifts is done at half-hour intervals to prevent contact between different shift employees, and backup teams were on standby for replacement in case of infection. Of course, all employees who do not have to be present in the factory have switched to home office mode. I am proud to say that Haifa did not fire or put on unpaid leave any employee from the factory, the various offices, or its subsidiaries abroad. Not only did we not hurt employees' salaries, we held actions to preserve the spirit of the company: we distributed toys to employees' children, we carried out community contribution activities, we conducted sports training and online lectures, and more. Human capital is the most vital component to our success, employee support and raising morale always, and in times of crisis in particular, is essential. "

Has the corona crisis managed to harm Haifa's fertilizer production or supply?

"The goal of all the actions we took was to ensure the supply of fertilizers to our customers in Israel and around the world, even when most of the economy was shut down. I am proud to say that not only did production in the factory not slow down, in fact it increased, the facilities are breaking production records and all goods have reached their destination successfully. We have significantly increased the production of certain products, and thus, despite the crisis, Haifa has met, and still meets its goals. However, in order to maintain a safe environment for employees, we have had to freeze a number of long-term external projects designed to significantly increase the plant's production capacity in the south. We are returning to promote them gradually, of course, with great attention to the field, developments and guidelines".

Has Haifa been economically affected by the crisis?

"In the company's operations abroad, due to the global crisis and problems supplying premium fertilizers from other countries, Haifa has stood out as a reliable supplier to its distributors and farmers. We see our distributors in Israel and around the world, some of whom have been walking with us for decades, as partners to our journey. Therefore, beyond the commercial aspect, we take great care to be attentive to them, and to provide a professional response to the needs that arise from the field, by creating new and advanced tools. For example, during the last few months, Haifa's teams have worked hard and held webinars (professional web seminars) for our customers, which are designed to provide a solution that mediates the challenges of physical distance. Haifa has a global reputation of a reliable, high-quality and professional company that we strive to preserve, to my delight the field feels this and this is reflected in customer requests and demand for our products. "

How do you expect Haifa to look on the day after the crisis?

"Although Haifa is perceived as a "heavy industry", we put the end customer at the center - the grower and the crop. Our strategy is to address their needs as professionally, accurately and affordably as possible. I estimate that these qualities, together with the high supply reliability which we particularly maintained during such a dramatic global crisis, will strengthen the Haifa Group's position among customers even after the end of the crisis".