Conference: Food Commodity Chains before and after Covid-19

Aims of the Conference

During the last decades, global economic interactions have been strongly influenced by the development of global commodity chains (GCC) which are linking different steps of production, transportation/logistics, retailing and consumption at different places all over the world. In the beginning, only manufacturing industries were organized on a global level. Today more and more fresh food, vegetables or flowers are coming from new-established export-oriented farming in countries of the Global South. All in all, in a globalizing world, how these global commodity chains are organized and develop is of great importance for the functioning of the economy and society. This is especially true for agricultural production in general and the production of fresh produce in particular which are especially sensitive sectors both for producers and consumers: While agriculture is only a minor economic sector in highly industrialized countries, in the Global South, agricultural production remains an important sector. Agriculture thus remains an important source of the livelihoods for large parts of the world population. Regional-, supra-regional and export-linkages open farmer reliable incomes and enable them to invest in improving the production; but they also have to obey social and ecological standards defined by retailing and consumption. However, the system also makes farmers vulnerable, if they face sudden changes through competition with new developing production clusters or external shocks like Corona. For highbrow consumers in the Global North, fresh produce such as flowers or exotic fresh fruit served out of season have been a source of distinction for a long time. More importantly, for not-so-well-off consumers, food is especially sensitive because eating is not only a necessity but in many parts of the world, poverty is still linked to lack of food. Even in Europe, the experience and fear of starvation is deeply engrained in cultural memory, as for long periods of European history, everyday lives were characterized by lack of food and famines. Before the Corona crisis, this seemed a thing of the past: Modernday consumers experienced food and other fresh produce as a commodity like any other – to be bought securely on a regular basis all over the year in the local stores without having to worry about their origins and availability. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought this seeming security to an immediate end: The sudden and ongoing lockdowns and restrictions of transport have shown how fragile and vulnerable global commodity chains in general and commodity chains of fresh agricultural products in particular are.

Understanding how commodity chains, logistics, transport and communication for agricultural fresh products are organized and have been re-organized during the last decades, as well as comprehending the effects of the Covid-19 crisis on commodity chains thus is of utmost importance. Such analyses of should not only be based on theoretical considerations but also on empirical evidence and more detailed analyses. The conference will provide this empirical evidence. The main objective of the conference is to analyze how production, retailing and consumption of food interlock as well as how external shocks induce the (re-)organization of the commodity chains for agricultural fresh-products. We will particularly analyze the Covid-19 pandemic’s shortterm (lock-down-induced) and the long-term (induced by attempts to establish of reliable and robust chains) positive and negative effects both on the organization of commodity chains and the individual actors of the chain. We will inspect how the spatial distribution of commodity chains interacts with actors on the actor levels by combining the economic geography approaches of global value chains (GVC) and global production networks (GPN) with the economic sociological approaches of convention theory and world systems analysis. The Papers address one of the following questions:

  1. How were commodity chains organized and spatially structured before the Covid-19 crisis and what challenges did they face during the crisis?
  2. What are the driving forces of these changes? That is: Who are powerful actors in the chain (consumers, retailers, intermediaries, agricultural producers, policy-makers) and where are they located? Who acted when, why and with what effects as a consequence of the Covid-19 crisis?
  3. What short-term effects (during the crisis) and long-term effects (after the crisis) does this have on the spatial organization of the chain and on the actors of the chain? What effect does the organization?



  • Session 1: Translocalisation – Moderation Linda Hering (Project A03, CRC 1265, & HU Berlin, Germany)
    • Steffen Mau (Project C01, CRC 1265, & Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany): Border Infrastructures, Visa Policies and Globalization
    • Beatriz Busto, Michael Lukes & Raul Contreras (Universidad de Chile, Chile): Of Pandemics and other Crises: The Decoupling of the Chilean Agro-Industry from the Local Food System in a Covid World
    • Lech Suwala (Technische Universität Berlin, Germany): The Lieferkettensorgfaltspflichtengesetz (LkSG Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supply Chains) and Potential Impacts on GCC/GVC/GPN and Corporate (Spatial) Responsibilities
  • Session 2: Local Production – Moderation: Eva Korte (Project A05, CRC 1265, & TU Berlin, Germany)
    • Tobias Chilla & Carola Wilhelm (Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany): Value Creation and Proximity in Local Food Production
    • Ulrich Jürgens (Universität Kiel, Germany): Local Food Supply Chains – Developments and Experiences from the Perspective of Original Producers and Retailers
    • Jonathan Nzuma (University of Nairobi; Kenya): Agro-Economic Perspective on the Production of Vegetables
  • Session 3: Workers – Moderation: Lara Espeter (Project Apples & Flowers, & TU Berlin, Germany)
    • Ankita Rathi (India/Sweden): Localizing the Global Commodity Chains Investigating the Social Organization of Small and Medium Agro-Business Firms from the Global South
    • Patricia Retamal Garrido (Universidad de Chile, Chile): The Effects of Agrarian Extrativism on Rural Women‘s Social Reproduction: A Feminist Geographical Analysis of Agro-Industry in Chile
    • Michael Wortmann (Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Recht Berlin, Germany): Work in the Global South for Consumption in Germany – Towards a Quantification: The Case of Food Products
  • Session 4: Food Security and Policy – Moderation: Christina Hecht (Project C07, CRC 1265, & TU Berlin, Germany)
    • Dominggus Elcid Li (GCSMUS & Institute of Resource Governance and Social Change, Indonesia): Food Security, Modernization, and Subsistence Community in the Area of East Nusa Tenggara Region
    • Peter Dannenberg & Carolina Kiesel (Universität Köln, Germany): An Argument for Place-Based Policies: The Importance of Local Conditions for Agricultural Policies exemplified by the Zambezi region, Namibia
    • Eric Yankson (GCSMUS & Namibia University of Science and Technology, Namibia): Unpacking the Ramifications of the COVID-19 Pandemic for Urban Food Value Chains in Namibia
  • Session 5: Sustainability – Moderation: Jakob Engel (Project Apples & Flowers, & HU Berlin, Germany)
    • Iwan Rudiarto (GCSMUS & Diponegoro University, Indonesia): Livelihood Resilience of Farm Families During the Implementation of Social Activity Restrictions due to Covid 19 in Indonesia
    • Paul Eisewicht & Nico M. Steinmann (Technische Universität Dortmund, Germany): The Rise of Meal Kits in Times of COVID-19: Promises of Sustainability, Convenience, and Experience in the Context of Supply Chains
    • Laura Tirabassi (University of Bologna, Italy): Covid-19 and Food Consumption: New Opportunities for European Consumers? A Qualitative Study on Food Practices in Italy and Great Britain
  • Session 6: Food Industry and Consumption I – Moderation: Simon Pohl (Project C07, CRC 1265, & TU Berlin, Germany)
    • Alexander Follmann (Universität Köln, Germany): Market-Oriented Urban und Periurban Agriculture in Kenya
    • Gilbert Nduro (Karatina University/Chuka University, Kenya): Resource Economics & Agriculture Kenya
    • Sellina A. Omollo & Josephine A. Opondo (Technical University of Kenya, Kenya): Effects of COVID 19 Pandemic on the Kenyan Purple Tea Value Supply Chain
  • Session 7: Food Industry and Consumption II – Moderation: Maria Norkus (Project A05, CRC 1265, & ZU Berlin, Germany)
    • Julia Kleineidam, Angelica Coll & Jakob Kaatz (Technische Universität Berlin, Germany): Development of a Concept to Combat Acute Disruptions of Food Supply Chains and Possible Implementation Measures – Empirical Investigation of the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the German Food Industry
    • Barbara Pfetsch, Daniel Maier & Annie Waldherr (Project B05, CRC 1265, & FU Berlin/Universität Münster, Germany): Frankenfood. Food in Media Discourse
    • Michael Lokuruka (Karatina University/Chuka University, Kenya): Drought and Social-Economic Factors and Not-COVID-19-Affected Food Production in Turkana County, Kenya: A Synthesis of 2018 – 2021 Period
  • Final Discussion – Moderation: Jochen Kibel (Project A05, CRC 1265, & Technische Universität Berlin, Germany)


This Conference is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and organized jointly by the projects “Knowledge and Goods II: Communicative Action of Consumer and Intermediares” (A03) in the Collaborate Research Center “Re-Figuration of Spaces” (CRC 1265), “Apples and Flowers. Effects of Pandemics on the (Re-)Organization of Commodity Chains for Fresh Agricultural Products” and the “Global Center of Spatial Methods for Urban Sustainability” (SMUS or GCSMUS).

The conference will take place at the Humboldt University of Berlin, Erwin Schrödinger – Zentrum, Rudower Chaussee 26, 12489 Berlin Adlershof on 16.06. and 17.06.2022.