The Covid-19 pandemic has had many negative effects on UK society and the economy. In recent weeks we have seen supermarket shortages and reduced offerings. As the UK is not self-sufficient in food production (for example only 16% of fruit and 52% vegetables and salad are grown in the UK), disruption to the logistics infrastructure could have serious knock-on effects for the UK. The often-complex network and interaction of growers, manufacturers, retailers and freight organisations mean that the current crisis is putting a strain on each of these sectors and the infrastructure which support it.

The mathematical sciences have a role in providing descriptions of resource flows, and tools which can assess vulnerabilities and model possible mitigation strategies. An initial webinar on the role of mathematical sciences in the AgriFood supply chain sector was held on the 28th April 2020.

This study group will take place over two sessions. This first session (7th – 8th September) aims to assess the resilience of the UK food networks by:

1. Identifying UK’s dependencies to international food supply chains:

  • What network representations can be made with available data on UK’s global trade in the AgriFood sector? What levels of information can these representations provide us in the context of UK’s agricultural dependencies?
  • What products and geographical locations are the most critical among the UK’s agricultural network dependencies to the rest of the world? How can these be reliably identified and quantified?

2. Evaluating challenges and bottlenecks in our national AgriFood logistics networks:

  • In the Covid-19 pandemic, which AgriFood products and UK regions have been most severely affected from disruptions to the supply and transportation of goods and labour?
  • What are the major bottlenecks in the national food logistics network and how can they be resolved?
  • How has the access of the low-income people to food been affected by the Covid-19 crisis?

Based on the findings on the above questions, how would we assess the overall resilience of the UK food supply network?

A second session later in the year will take the representations and learning from session one to look at the UK food network response to specific shocks. This session might, for example, look at how the network responds to new UK-EU trade dynamics, or the effect of recurring global spikes in Covid-19 cases causing disruption to supply, labour and/or closing trade borders.

The organisers have identified a number of public datasets which may be useful in approaching the first session. These include datasets on international trade and production and statistics on the UK agricultural sector.

Please express your interest to take part using the following registration link below. We are currently only accepting expressions of interest from researchers and UK universities. We are particularly interested to hear from researchers in data science, statistical modelling and

Provisional Agenda

Day One
09:30 – Introduction and Welcome
09:45 – Problem Statement
10:15 – Academic Response
10:45 – Study Group Topics
11:00 – Sub-group Work
16:00 – All Delegate Catch-up

Day Two
09:30 – All Delegate Catch-up
10:00 – Sub-group Work
15:30 – All Delegate Catch-up
16:00 – Next Steps

Organisers

Alexandra Brintrup – University of Cambridge
Matt Butchers – Knowledge Transfer Network
Guven Demirel – Queen Mary University of London

This forum is supported by the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS) and the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences (INI), and is part of the recently launched Virtual Forum for Knowledge Exchange in the Mathematical Sciences (V-KEMS).