How To Manage Supply Chain Risks In Food and Agriculture


Humans, like all other animals, need food to survive. These days, however, we don’t resort to traditional hunting and gathering to get it. Instead, we’ve developed complex and far-reaching food supply chains that match food sources with consumers and supply us all with what we need. On the whole, that’s been a boon to us, both physically and economically. It has also increased the number of risks involved in the safe production, transport, and sale of those foods.

If it seems like food recalls due to contamination or related issues have been rising in recent years, it’s because they are. In the US alone, food recalls increased by 10% between 2013 and 2018, and there have been similar increases around the world. There’s also a variety of efficiency and sustainability issues plaguing the global food supply chain. That’s why it’s more important than ever for those involved in global food production to redouble their efforts to manage supply chain risks in the food and agriculture sectors – and here’s how they can do it.

Focus on Training and Company Culture

Many of the problems that tend to arise in the global food and agriculture supply chain begin at the production end of the process when poor oversight and training allow for improper processing and handling of food products. To minimize that kind of risk, food suppliers should do what’s necessary to create a business culture that puts safety at the center of everything. They should insist upon strict facility oversight and offer comprehensive safety training to all employees involved in the supply chain. In a world where massive corporate entities often control vast swaths of the food supply around the world, this is the best way to keep production, processing, and packaging facilities operating in a safe manner.

Increase Traceability

Today, food and agriculture supply chains are more complex than ever before. Most products that appear on store shelves come from different regions at different times and often from multiple sources at once. That makes it difficult for producers or retailers to gain any real visibility into the food supply chain, and that sometimes spells disaster. It’s part of the reason why recent foodborne illness outbreaks have gone on for so long, as officials try to trace back the sources of the contamination.

To overcome this type of risk, food supply chain participants should adopt technology to increase product traceability, and shorten identification times to the greatest extent possible. An excellent example of this may be found at Walmart, who developed a blockchain-based database their suppliers now use to register products at their sources prior to shipment. That allows the retailer to pinpoint contaminated products and eliminate them within hours, not weeks or months.

Use Data to Enhance Efficiency and Reduce Spoilage

Every year 1.6 billion tons of food goes to waste around the world due to spoilage, overproduction, and supply chain delays. That kind of loss represents a unique and major risk to the global food and agriculture supply chain and should be addressed by participants around the world. One way to do that is to adopt data-driven production and supply processes, that can better keep production levels in sync with demand. In addition, advanced analytics would enable accurate forecasting to eliminate overcapacity and even allow for dynamic pricing models to automatically mitigate oversupply issues. Together, that would enhance overall efficiency, protect food suppliers from losses, and exert downward pressure on prices – which would benefit consumers all over the world.

Safe, Plentiful, and Profitable

By addressing the issues identified above, the participants of the global food and agriculture supply chain can mitigate many of the risks they now face. They’d benefit from fewer food safety issues and recalls, decrease spoilage and waste, and increase profits through enhanced efficiency. Plus, consumers around the world would benefit from having a safe, secure, and reliable food supply that’s accessible to all – and that would be good news for everyone involved.