The global food supply chain is built on shifting ground

Wednesday, January 12, 2011
By Paul Martin

David Rae
ProcurementBlog
Tuesday, January 11

In recent weeks there’s been a sensational level of focus on food supply. Though Procurement Leaders has been tracking the price volatility for months now, once certain price gates are breached, the public starts to get interested. And while it’s difficult to say, especially after the ups and downs of 2008, whether a truly global crisis is around the corner – this is still one of a growing number of signals that the food supply chains of the future may be virtually unrecognisable today.

When you read around the topic, it’s clear this is not a new issue and there’s little happening that wasn’t predicted. Particularly after the wake-up call in 2008, food prices have been the elephant in the room. Looking back to 2009, I found a prescient post by ‘the doctor’ on Sourcing Innovation asking whether we can sustain the global food chain.

In that post, one of the points he raises is that sustainability (with apologies to Paul Teague) is having a growing impact on the way companies source their food. Here in 2011, that’s more accurate and more relevant than ever.

Take the example of palm oil – which has been something of a standard bearer for many big name food companies’ sustainable sourcing habits. As the global director of sustainable sourcing development at Unilever said last year: “We need to increase the uptake of certified oil in the [global] market.”

And that’s one of the dilemmas at the heart of this discussion: global food markets have different needs and regulations and as companies try to invest in these markets, their global sourcing strategies come under more and more pressure.

The Rest…HERE

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