From field to fork – global food supply and its dependence on resilient infrastructure

Food security is increasingly a challenge for countries and governments worldwide. Of the food produced globally, 40% is wasted or lost, while more than 800 million people go to bed hungry every day.

“The global supply of food is an incredibly complex system, involving multiple actors and a diverse value chain from production through to consumption”, says Juliet Mian, Technical Director, Resilience Shift.

Food supply chains and their dependencies on infrastructure (adapted from Bartos et al)

“It relies on critical infrastructure throughout, in the form of water, energy, communication (digital and analogue), and transportation. Disruption to any part of any of these systems can cascade through to other parts of the supply chain and is likely to have unexpected consequences that are felt elsewhere in the world”, she explains.

The Jan/Feb issue (Vol.65 No.1) of Cereal Foods World includes a feature on ‘Resilience and complex interdependencies within and between global food supply networks and transportation infrastructure’. Authored by Juliet Mian, Jan Reier Huse, Xavier Aldea Borruel, and Vincent Doumeizel, Lloyd’s Register Foundation, with contribution from Brian Bedard, the paper is open access.

Resilience requires a whole systems approach and a focus on the end-to-end resilience of a system, not only the ability of one organisation to maintain business continuity. The resilience of transportation infrastructure (road, rail, marine, aviation) is often taken for granted—until it fails. In this article, evidence is drawn from different systems, geographies, and stakeholders to show how a more integrated approach can enhance the resilience of transportation infrastructure networks and, consequently, the global food supply chains that rely on them.

The food supply chain nexus of energy, water, transport.

The authors define food supply chain resilience and provide an overview of the view from industry. They expand on the following six principles for enhancing the resilience of food transportation systems that are relevant globally and throughout the supply chain:

  • Accepting complexity and recognising interdependencies
  • Creating a clear link between safety and resilience
  • Overcoming fragmentation in the supply chain
  • Adopting an ‘all hazards’ approach to resilience
  • Avoiding new, unintended, vulnerabilities related to technological innovations
  • Transferring knowledge between sectors

The article draws on  insights from Resilience Shift research into the resilience of global food supply chains carried out in 2019 through industry workshops.

Read article: ‘Resilience and complex interdependencies within and between global food supply networks and transportation infrastructure’.

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