Research Program

The transformation of global agri-food systems will have far-reaching implications, which are not yet well understood.

  • How does the structure of food supply chains emerge?
  • What are likely impacts on trade flows and value distribution?
  • How can future trends in global consumption behavior be estimated?
  • How do these trends influence supply chain governance?
  • Can smallholder farmers in developing countries be integrated successfully into high-value supply chains?
  • What are the implications for poverty, food security, and nutrition?

These were some of the overarching research questions addressed by the GlobalFood RTG. While some of the research was based on secondary data, many aspects built on primary data collected through household and industry surveys as well as laboratory and field experiments in developed and developing countries. Research results advance the academic knowledge base and guide public and private sector policymaking at various levels.

Research areas and cross-cutting themes

GlobalFood was structured into four interlinked research areas covering different stages of international agri-food supply chains. While research area A (“Restructuring of global supply chains”) focused on intermediate stages, such as trade and retail, research area B (“Consumer preferences and nutritional implications”) took a closer look at consumption. The remaining two research areas (Area C: “Linking smallholders to markets” and Area D: “Impacts on rural development”) concentrated on agricultural production and marketing in developing countries, with special emphasis on how small farms can be linked to emerging value chains and impacts on welfare and rural development.

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As a new instrument, GlobalFood identified four cross-cutting themes in 2014, fostering interdisciplinary cooperation and allowing broader syntheses of research findings. These cross-cutting themes addressed specific areas that are of great importance for a better understanding of the global agri-food system transformation, but that have not yet received much attention in the related literature. These cross-cutting themes are "Gender", "Nutrition", "Preferences", and "Policy".


Each research area comprised three to four subprojects (SPs), where concrete research questions were addressed by doctoral researchers, always in close interaction with the other SPs. Postdoctoral researchers focused on cross-cutting issues.

The subprojects were (use the hyperlinks to get further details):