Food security — shorter supply chains

Food often travels a long way and passes through many hands on its way from paddock to plate. This is a bigger risk than we realise.

Afterbefore has a list of the 10 big things we must have to achieve global food security to 2050 and beyond

Here is a closer logic look at one of them

Stable, shorter, food supply chains that resist environmental and economic shocks.

If you live in Sydney Australia you are very fortunate.

Despite some of the costliest average house prices in the world, the lifestyle is literally one of sun, sea and urban vibe. At lunchtime, for 10 bucks you can pick up a freshly cooked meal from just about any global cuisine. Some of the café breakfasts are why Sundays were invented.

apples-supermarketEach Sydney-sider consumes roughly 400g of fruit and vegetable per day, all up some 1,720 tonnes per day. Whilst most of this food is grown in Australia it also has a few food miles on it. Potatoes from Tasmania, mangoes and bananas from Queensland, ‘Pink Lady’, ‘Granny Smith’ and ‘Sundowner’ apple varieties from Victoria and Western Australia. Almost one-third of the produce travels over 1,000 km.

The fresh produce moving through Sydney Markets, the central distribution point for the city, is some 2,300 tonnes per day. If this churn stopped there is about 2 days supply of fresh produce stored in fridges. A break in the supply line, let’s say a potato blight in Tasmania, and we go without fries until ships arrive from New Zealand. That’s assuming the folk in Auckland are prepared to cop the higher prices for their potato wedges.

Single commodity problems like this happen all the time. In 2011, cyclone Yasi hit the north coast of Queensland and restricted supply of bananas pushing process to $15 a kilo. People shifted their diet or went without easily enough and in time the supply returned to normal volume and price.

The problem is correlated risk.

A systemic drought or biosecurity event or fuel price hike or similar widespread disruption that affects more than a single commodity, is less easy to absorb. No bananas are bearable, but no fries, onion rings or a tomato on the burger and the urban vibe wobbles.

The solution is to backstop the main supply lines with shorter ones based on local producers, co-ops and urban gardens. The technological revolution, such as the dramatic increase in cost-efficiency of LED lighting for aquaponics systems, can also grow food in unlikely places. Disused night clubs in New York, for example.

The challenge is to encourage these solutions to establish during the transition when the longer supply chains still have the economic advantage.

If there was just one co-op garden in every suburb it would be a great start.

Afterbefore supports both short and traditional supply chains because both are needed to deliver food security.





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