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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: April 2015

18 - Consumers, food supply chain and the nexus



This chapter explores the interactions between the main actors in the food supply chain, also referred to as the food system, from producers to consumers. Governance of these interactions has implications for the use of water, land, energy and the environment, as well as for the economy. The purpose of the chapter is to highlight that the inefficiencies in the system can be significantly reduced with multiple wins. Mainstream approaches focus on production and tend to overlook externalities and trade-offs. The sizeable losses, waste and conversion of the food produced are ignored. An expansion of an increasingly wealthy and urban population poses one set of challenges. Reducing a lingering poverty poses another. On the supply side, global warming and the enhanced uncertainty and variability in water availability signal an era with unprecedented predicaments. With a multitude of drivers and an increasing resource scarcity and uncertainty, a food supply chain perspective is warranted. It helps to improve knowledge about system dynamics: how much and what is produced that is beneficially used, by various socioeconomic groups, and how much goes down the drain. Water is most heavily used in connection with production, whereas significant fractions of energy are used for processing, distribution and among consumers. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions dominate the first segments of the supply chain. There are significant potential savings and benefits from a reduction of losses and waste of food in terms of water, energy, money and reduced GHG emissions. Effective policy for environmental health and food security needs to include incentives and demonstrations directed towards consumers apart from policies aiming at producers.

‘Le problème avec notre époque est que le futur n'est plus ce qu' il était’

Paul Valéry (1871–1945)

Purpose and contents of chapter

It is recognised that “there is no such a thing as a post-agricultural society” (Weiskel 1988; quoted in many publications, eg Postel 1999).