July 9, 2021

Having a more diverse supply chain reduces the chance that a city will suffer shocks to its food supply, according to newly published research.

Released in the scientific journal Nature, the findings deal with an issue that may move to the fore as the world faces upheaval caused by climate change.

“Food supply shock is a pressing issue that may be increasing worldwide. Extreme-weather events, possibly exacerbated by climate change, are a main driver of food supply shocks,” the four authors of the paper, based at Pennsylvania State University and Northern Arizona University, wrote.

“Global and national food supply chains increase exposure to shocks compared with local food supply chains, but also add diversity and resilience.”

Looking at four types of food over a period of four years, the researchers analysed thousands of pieces of data about food inflows to 284 cities across America.

From this, they worked out the likelihood that a city’s food supply chain would experience a shock – a shortage of a particular commodity – above a given level for a year, and linked this to the diversity of its food suppliers within the country.

Certain cities, such as Florence in South Carolina and Cleveland in Ohio, were found to be at very low risk of shocks to their supply chain, while others, such as Beaumont in Texas and Steamboat in Colorado, had relatively high risks. Generally risks were greater in western parts of the country.

“Cities will need to actively manage their supply chain connections to deal with the causes and consequences of shocks to their critical lifelines, such as food,” the researchers concluded.

“Using this method to guide the policy objective of diversification of supply chains, cities and communities can engage in demand-side policies that scientifically manage risk and build resilience into their supply chains.”

The researcher said that food insecurity was generally low in developed nations, but could be a problem in poorer communities. They also said the Covid-19 pandemic had highlighted the way that public health issues could have an impact.

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