Robust Supply Chains in the Agri-food Industry

Visualising the Complexity, Fragility and Risks of Food and Nutrient Supply-chains Across and Within the EU

Food security and food sovereignty have become subjects of intense debate in Europe. Together these concepts refer to the stability and robustness of domestic and cross-border supply chains. These debates were stimulated by events of the past years that have highlighted the trade risks faced by the EU and the countries within its sphere. An important aspect that has become evident during these debates is that food security is not about autarky, but rather building strong ties to key trade partners. The agriculture sector is especially affected by disruptions to key inputs such as energy and fertilizers. Additionally, trade of food imports, key for supplying persons and animals with core nutrients, is also impacted. In this paper we explore trade patterns for EU-27 countries and for Austria using fertilisers and elementary nutrients (such as proteins and calories) from food and feed as case study products. By assigning a risk weight to each country, we explore the level of embodied risk in imports of these products. We show that while the EU as a whole has increased its diversity of trade partners, it is trading fertiliser mostly with countries that are at risk of political disruptions. In contrast, Austria has reduced its trade diversity, faces higher indirect risks, and also pays a higher unit price for fertiliser imports relative to other countries in the EU. The risk profile of countries supplying basic nutrients is more advantageous. However, because only few risk prone countries dominate global supplies of fertiliser, which are key ingredients for nutrients, the situation is only seemingly more advantageous.