Characterising food and feed supply chains


Food and feed supply chains vary greatly depending on the crop and its intended uses. Therefore, this task selects a broad range of representative supply chains for analysis and characterisation. The selected representative supply chains form a basis for other Co-Extra projects covering all aspects of co-existence and traceability along food and feed supply chains.


The research partners involved in this task begin by selecting representative supply chains for six major crops: maize, soybean, rapeseed, beet, tomato, and wheat. The selected supply chains represent each crop's various uses and common international trade routes. For example, wheat supply chains are selected that involve food, feed, and industrial applications.

For each selected supply chain, one of the project partners conducts research to find out exactly what goes with that supply chain. This includes making a list of companies involved in each supply chain, designing a questionaire to distribute to stakeholders, and collecting data from existing literature.

As soon as data is collected, the researchers begin analysing data by graphically representing supply chains and quantifying the flow of material. From this, the task participants are able to identify the most critical points supply chain operators will need to monitor, to ensure that GM and non-GM products remain separate.


All of the supply chains to be analysed have now been selected. The project partners have completed the design of the questionaire, and a literature review on the data associated with each of the selected supply chains has been conducted.

Germany: Sugar beet and processed sugar

After characterising supply chains and starting interviews, it became clear that the German sugar industry as a whole has little interest in co-existence and traceability, as they currently do not use GM sugar beets, nor do they plan to in the near future. Therefore, most of the data collected stemmed from reviews of literature, interviews with experts, and data searches on the internet.

The German sugar industry is concentrated primarily in the hands of three major sugar companies: Suedzucker, Nordzucker, and Pfeiffer & Langen. German sugar companies process exclusively domestically grown sugar beets, all grown under contracts with farmers. Some processed sugar is imported into Germany, but mainly from other EU countries.

Sugar beets are transported in Germany by truck, and the processed sugar is transported by truck, ship, and train. One way of having GM and conventional sugar beets co-exist in the production chain could be to alternate between batches of different origin. This approach would introduce risk of unwanted mixing. Another approach would be to devote specific processing plants only to GM or to conventional. This would minimise the risk of mixing, but it would also involve higher transport costs and logistical efforts.

Germany: Wheat and wheat starch

Wheat starch production in Germany was studied starting from the farm up. Wheat is one of Germany's major crops, covering 26 percent of arable land in 2004. Germany producers more wheat than its domestic demand, meaning the country exports more wheat than it imports. Wheat grain is transported via truck, train, and ship.

Unlike wheat grain, wheat starch production in Germany, is below domestic demand. Almost all of the wheat starch imported into Germany comes from Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. The German starch industry is composed of 8 companies with 14 factories creating a total turnover of 1.2 billion euros annually. Of all the starch produced in Germany, 18 percent is derived from wheat.

Admixitures between GM and conventional wheat could occur at many places along the supply chain. Mixing could occur at the farm, grain elevator, grain imports, milling, flour imports, and starch imports. An analysis of the supply chain's "hot spots" revealed that most effort would need to be concentrated on setting up new storage facilities and thoroughly cleaning between GM and non-GM production.

More information will be available in the coming months.

Germany: Rapeseed meal and oil

A list of stakeholders involved in seed crushing, trade, and food/feed production has been compiled. Then, interviews and a review of data and literature were conducted to get information on the supply chain structure physical flows, production statistics, figures on imports and exports, volume, and markets.

Besides quantitative data, researchers identified seed transportation, storage tanks/silos, and imports and critical points in the supply chain. More information will be made available soon.

Belgium: Soybeans for animal feed

A list of soybean supply chain operators has been compiled, and the project is working in close contact with the Federation for Belgian Feed Manufacturers (BEMEFA). Regional information was conducted for Argentina and Brazil, which are soybean export countires, France and Belgium, which are processing countries, as well as Denmark and Poland. Quantitative and qualitative flow schemes have been established. More information will be made available in the next few months.

Spain: Maize

Much has been accomplished with the characterisation of maize supply chains in Spain. To date, researchers have collected information on maize commercialisation in Spain, sent out questionnaires to stakeholders, quantified maize flows through the supply chain, and have identified criticial spots along the chain. More information will be made available in the next few months.

Poland: Rapeseed and soybean

The team has reached only preliminary, unpublished results at this stage of the project.

Slovenia: Silage maize and fresh tomatoes

In total, researchers have identified four important stakeholders in the silage maize or fresh tomato supply chains in Slovenia and have come up with a technical description of the flow of goods. Data on commercial production, imports, and exports have also been compiled. More information will be made available soon.

Argentina: Soybean

The soybean supply chain from Argentina has been characterised and representative stakeholders have been selected. The stakeholders were narrowed down to four soybean suppliers or producers that will take part in more detailed studies.

Brazil: Soybean

The team has reached only preliminary, unpublished results at this stage of the project.

More information:

Empirical analysis of coexistence in commodity supply chains

Public Deliverables of the Co-Extra project


Antoine Messean
Institut National de Recherche Agronomique (INRA), France
Morten Gylling
The Danish Research Institute of Food Economics (FOI), Denmark
Klaus Menrad & Tobias Hirzinger
University of Applied Sciences of Weihenstephan (FW), Germany
Norma Pensel
Instituto Nacional de TecnologĂ­a Agropecuaria (INTA), Argentina
Victor Pelaez
Paraná Institute of Technology (Tecpar), Brasil
Christine Henry
Central Science Laboratory Defra, United Kingdom
Juergen Bez
Fraunhofer Gesellschaft zur Forderung der Angewandten Forschung - Institute for Process Engineering & Packaging, Germany
Vladimir Meglic
Agricultural Institute of Slovenia (KIS), Slovenia
Mia Eeckhout
Hogeschool Ghent (Hogent), Belgium
Jose M. Gil
Centro de Investigacion en Conomia Y Desarrollo Agroalimentarios(CREDA), Spain
Sylwia Zakowska-Biemans
Szkola Glowna Gospodarstwa Wiejskiego/Warsaw Agricultural University, Poland