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Pinch Points Affecting the Food Supply Chain - FO0451

In an increasingly globalised and unpredictable world, food supply chains are subject to an increasing number of political, economic, social, technological, legislative and environmental (PESTLE) pressures. In recent years, these have manifested and impacted severely upon the industry, by way of fuel strikes, natural disasters, pests and diseases, and conflicts to name a few. The challenge is maintaining UK resilience in a highly interdependent and dynamic network of organisations – particularly as these operate on multiple scales, across multiple political landscapes, and with varying supply processes. Such complex systems often comprise thousands of supply network “nodes”, and millions of interactions, all of which have the potential to be influenced by external risks.

In addition to this systemic complexity, consumer demand for high quality food with fewer preservatives and additional pressure to cut costs has driven retailers, manufacturers and warehouses to decrease inventory stocks and contingencies, and rely heavily on responsive replenishment and “just-in-time” delivery (McKinnon, 2006). These inflated rates of inventory rotation, estimated at 12.1 times per year in 2004, compared to 7.2 times per year in 1986 (Department for Transport 2003; Office of National Statistics 2006), have placed increasing reliance on rapid delivery, particularly by road. This increase in “just-in-time” logistics means that impacts and delivery in key food chains may be more pronounced today than previously.

Recent fuel strikes (e.g. 2000, 2005, 2007, and 2012) had an unprecedented effect on the UK food supply and highlighted rapid delivery as a key vulnerability in the system. The 5 day protests in 2000 led to impacts on agricultural communities, manufacturers, producers, distributors, retailers, and consumers, with UK-wide panic buying and food rationing at supermarkets. The trend for such protests seems likely to rise, given the increasing cost of fuel.
The above challenges represent a distinct need to understand the range of factors influencing UK supply, map out pinch points in the system, and identify mechanisms to improve resilience, particularly in relation to fuel strike risk.

Research context
There is an emerging field of research, which has looked to define ‘best practice’ in supply chain resilience (e.g. Christopher and Peck, 2004). Whilst much of this work is focused outside of food supply, there has been a considerable effort in recent years to advance practice globally. Reports from the FAO (2011), Scottish Government (2009), the Australian Government’s Department for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (2012) have all sought to identify potential risks to food chain resilience. However, little of this research appears to stem from a full systematic review of pinch points, impact analysis, or best practice evidence.

Key challenges addressed
This research will identify vulnerabilities or “pinch points” in the food supply chain, understand the likely impact of disruption, and explore possible means of improving resilience/ mitigating impacts. Driver and pinch point identification are key elements to inform decision and policy making to ensure food chain resilience. Collating this type of information is difficult, due to the breadth of factors affecting food supply. However, the Contractor will carry out a multidisciplinary approach drawing on experts from a range of fields. The Contractor will take the food chain (from on-farm to consumer) and systematically review the literature by the sections of the food chain potentially affected. Additionally, a number of case studies (of critical food groups) will be developed to illustrate a how potential pinch points may impact specific produce types.

i The key pinch points in the food chain which are sensitive to fuel strikes
ii. Those affected by fuel strikes (sectors, geographical areas, consumer bases, businesses (including suppliers to manufacture, manufacture, retailers))
iii. The mechanisms by which they are affected
iv. The impact (economic, social, and environmental) of fuel strikes on these stakeholder types
Project Documents
• EVID4 - Final project report : Pinch Points Affecting the Food Supply FO0451-Evid4-PinchPoints (6)   (1009k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2013

To: 2013

Cost: £27,852
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Cranfield University
Fields of Study
Resource Efficient and Resilient Food Chain