Resilience and Complex Interdependencies within and between Global Food Supply Networks and Transportation Infrastructure

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.

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. 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.

Resilience requires a whole systems approach. Often, the resilience of transportation infrastructure (road, rail, marine, aviation) is 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 article focuses on the end-to-end resilience of a system, not only the ability of one organization to maintain business continuity.

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.


Publication date: 31 January, 2020
Authors: Juliet Mian, Jan Reier Huse, Xavier Aldea Borruel, Vincent Doumeizel