Capturing the heterogeneity of sub-national production in global trade flows

Croft, Simon A.; West, Christopher D.; and Green, West, Christopher D.; and Jonathan M. H.; Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 203 (1 December 2018), pp. 1106–1118


Footprint indicators – including the PRINCE indicators – generally treat producer countries as single entities for the sake of estimating environmental impacts. However, within a producer country there may be significant differences between landscapes, meaning that the same activities – for example, farming soy – can have very different implications. Accurately linking consumption to production is essential to understand drivers and key actors, and to facilitate actionable adaptation strategies to minimize negative impacts and guarantee food security.

Using the case of Brazilian soy imports to the EU, this open-access article illustrates how consumer markets can be linked back to specific production landscapes using a hybridized MRIO model, IOTA. This study introduces SEI’s hybridized multiregional input-output (MRIO) model, IOTA, developed by Stockholm Environment Institute. IOTA utilizes subnational and national-level production, trade and environmental data; national-scale commodity-use data; and a global economic MRIO to link sub-national production landscapes and associated impacts to regional final consumption.

The article applies IOTA to Brazilian soy production and related land use for consumption in the European Union. The distribution of production between Brazilian states to meet EU demand differs significantly from that of total production in the country, and each individual EU member state has its own sourcing patterns. Sourcing also varies considerably within a country’s consumption profile, depending on the sector purchasing the soy.

The linking of consumption to subnational production and trade allows for more accurate and meaningful connections to be made between consumer behaviour and the associated impacts and risks. This enhanced understanding of consumption-driven impacts in turn informs, and allows for, more targeted and effective policy interventions to tackle the pressures and risks associated with agricultural commodity production for a global market.

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