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Resilience of the UK
food system
to Global Shocks

 
 

Food consumption is changing

An increasing global population needs more food, fuel and shelter than ever before. Simultaneously, income growth is  changing food consumption towards commodities that are more land-intensive to supply. 

In an increasingly interconnected global food system local shocks can have wider impacts. To mitigate and adapt to these we need a better understanding of where food supply chains are vulnerable and where they show resilience.

The RUGS project at the University of Edinburgh will look at how the global food system deals with shocks, and will develop our understanding of the impact that these shocks have on the UK food system.

 Varying population graph

Managing volatile food systems

Volatile food prices can have negative impacts on food supply chains, impacting producers, processors, distributors and consumers. Higher food prices increase the share of income required for purchasing food, leaving low income householder particularly vulnerable. Price spikes and fluctuations can also influence diets, shifting consumption patterns towards less healthy, cheaper foods.

A better understanding of the UK food system and its vulnerability to global shocks will help identify ways to increase resilience, leading to improved food security.

 Photograph indicating volatile food market

Versatile Modelling

The project will develop a versatile model to characterise the global food system and to explore global resilience. This will combine stakeholder insights and response behaviors with a novel land use model.  We aim to identify mitigation actions and adaptations to reduce and limit the impact of supply and price volatility.

We aim to identify mitigation actions and adaptations to reduce and limit the impact of supply and price volatility
network map of global food system
 

Stakeholder participation

We have a diverse group of 24 stakeholders involved in the RUGS project, including food producers, retailers, policy makers and third sector workers, as well as individuals from the insurance industry, energy sector, academia and consultancy.  Our stakeholders provide key insights that allow us to identify and understand trends and potential future shocks along with the impacts they may have on the food system.    

Our stakeholders play a key role shaping the direction of the project, in critiquing model results and identifying ways that we might mitigate the impact of negative shocks and trends to increase food system resilience. 

In July 2017 the first of three project workshops took place.  During this workshop stakeholders identified and discussed the key drivers that affect the food system.  Four scenarios were developed which described the possible impacts of four food system shocks and preceding trends.  Each scenario identified how connectivity within the food system increases volatility and vulnerability to rapid and widespread shock transmission.

Discussions also took place around the growing role of media and social media in shaping attitudes and behaviours towards food, with stakeholder interest in this area leading us to incorporate a new avenue of research into the RUGS project.

The next workshop will take place in June 2018.  During the session we will discuss how we have incorporated some of the key themes from the first workshop into our model, discussing the model outputs and their implications.  We will also spend time identifying characteristics of a resilient food system as well as intervention and mitigation measures that might limit the impacts that detrimental shocks and trends may have.  We will share the key workshop outcome in our July blog post so keep a look out for this!

 
Stake holder food policy diagram
 
 

Team

Our project team has extensive cross-disciplinary experience, developed through a range of multi-partner projects at global, European and UK levels.  The team conducts applied research, using modelling, scenario development and non-market valuation  to address policy questions and to inform decision making in  the UK and beyond.

 

Project Partners