Research Director, Energy, Environment and Resources
Research Fellow, Energy, Environment and Resources

Policymakers must take action immediately to mitigate the risk of severe disruption at certain ports, maritime straits, and inland transport routes, which could have devastating knock-on effects for global food security.

Pedro Miguel locks, Panama Canal. Photo: Gonzalo Azumendi/Getty Images.Pedro Miguel locks, Panama Canal. Photo: Gonzalo Azumendi/Getty Images.

Key findings

  • Trade chokepoints – maritime, coastal and inland – pose an underexplored and growing risk to global food security.
  • Maritime chokepoints will become increasingly integral to meeting global food supply as population growth, shifting dietary preferences, bioenergy expansion and slowing improvements in crop yields drive up demand for imported grain.
  • Rising trade volumes, increasing dependence on imports among food-deficit countries, underinvestment, weak governance, climate change and emerging disruptive hazards together make chokepoint disruptions – both small-scale and large-scale – increasingly likely.
  • Climate change will have a compounding effect on chokepoint risk, increasing the probability of both isolated and multiple concurrent weather-induced disturbances.
  • Investment in infrastructure lags demand growth: critical networks in major crop-producing regions are weak and ageing, and extra capacity is urgently needed. 

Recommendations

  • Integrate chokepoint analysis into mainstream risk management and security planning - for example, government agencies should assess exposure and vulnerability to chokepoint risk at the national and subnational levels.
  • Invest in infrastructure to ensure future food security – for example by agreeing on guidelines for climate-compatible infrastructure through an international taskforce established under the G20.
  • Enhance confidence and predictability in global trade - for example, through a process under the World Trade Organization (WTO) to continually reduce the scope for export restrictions
  • Develop emergency supply-sharing arrangements and smarter strategic storage, e.g. an emerging response mechanism among major players in the global food trade, modelled in part on that of the International Energy Agency in oil markets and led by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) or the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS).
  • Build the evidence base around chokepoint risk - including through the collection of data on real-time food trade and infrastructural capacity to aid in assessing risks to food supply chains.

Further Reading