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Using big data could alert us to risks in the food supply chain

June 16, 2015

Using big data could alert us to risks in the food supply chain

Toby Waine
Tuesday 16 June 2015 11.38 BST

As shoppers, we’ve become used to the reliable presence of brands in supermarkets. The idea of food scarcity and disruption to supplies doesn’t come into plans for our weekly food shop.

But the reality for many global food manufacturers is uncertainty. Chocolate production is one example. Some 40% of the world’s cocoa comes from the Ivory Coast, grown on farms with only a few hectares of cocoa trees. In China alone, US firm The Hershey Company estimates that sales of chocolate will grow 60% between 2014 and 2019 to a value of $4.3bn. This is partly thanks to a new-found love of chocolate among China’s growing middle classes.

But it’s not just chocolate. The problem is widespread, particularly with ingredients that only grow in specific climates, such as vanilla, tea, coffee and palm oil. Last year, the global coffee market saw shortages partly due to a drought in Brazil. This led to steep price rises and prompted Starbucks to acquire a new 600-acre Arabica farm in Costa Rica to study sustainability issues first hand.

Read more at The Guardian.

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