Category Archives: News

Conference reminder: Agrifood Conference 2014, Sydney

The registration deadline for the 2014 Australasian Agrifood Research Network conference in Sydney is getting close – the deadline for registering is 1st November 2014. All are welcome, you don’t have to be presenting a paper to attend the conference and events.

There are fabulous social events organized by the Sydney team – the field trips, and the dinner. The fieldtrips this year offers a celebration of food in the city, and various sumptuous delights, including the company of TV presenter and foodie Indira Nadoo. The dinner is set to be a special occasion, and as always, one of the not-to-be-missed highlights of the conference.

If you have already registered, and wish to retrospectively add a fieldtrip or the dinner, you still can through the conference website.

Call for papers: Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting 2015

Call for Papers: Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting, 21-25 April 2015, Chicago

Livelihoods, vulnerability and resilience in South and South East Asian Deltas

Session organisers: Amelie Bernzen, Boris Braun (University of Cologne, Germany), J. Craig Jenkins (Ohio State University, USA)

Delta areas of South and South East Asia have been subject to increasing climatic and anthropogenic challenges. Natural impacts on densely populated, low-lying coastal areas include more frequent flooding, higher rainfall, tropical cyclones and storm surges as well as increasing saltwater intrusion triggered and augmented by sea-level rise. At the same time, population is growing and pressure on land for agricultural purposes and settlement areas is increasing. Exposure to these circumstances potentially increases the coastal population’s vulnerability, threatening livelihoods, food security and fresh water availability.

Coping and adaptation strategies of the coastal population on household- and community level are manifold, with migration and land use (intensity) changes gaining momentum. While it is clear that many human activities are degrading coastal forests, transforming traditional cropping patterns, and creating new settlements in exposed areas, their socio-economic driving forces and consequences on resilience are still not fully understood. There are good reasons to assume that they are not linked merely to local and national decision-making processes. Rather, land use changes appear also due to external forces, for instance in the shape of global buyers who urge conversion from rice paddies and forests to aquacultures to meet rising demands of consumers in the Global North.

In this session, we will address the complexity of socio-economic processes in South and South East Asian Deltas, contributing to a broader understanding of the observed changes and more specific questions around how the coastal population copes and adapts to changing environments and increasing vulnerability.

We welcome both more conceptual and more empirical papers on specific case study areas (e.g. Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta, Mekong Delta, Irrawaddy Delta, Pearl River Delta).

Anyone interested in presenting a paper in this session should submit an abstract of up to 250 words to Amelie Bernzen (, Boris Braun ( and Craig Jenkins ( by Monday 20th October 2014. If available, please include your PIN registration number for the AAG.

New publication: Global Food Trade Beyond the ‘Standards’ Debate

Congratulations, Amely Bernzen, on the publication of your dissertation on organic value chains!


More and more products in western consumer markets today are imported, increasingly from developing countries. Yet, as distances to suppliers increase, monitoring and tracing product and process qualities along global supply chains back to the source have become increasingly challenging tasks for companies at the downstream end of the chain. Particularly importers risk legal sanctions or negative media coverage in case products are non-compliant with local requirements. The problem of uncertainty becomes even more urgent as highly specific quality designations come into play. The aim of this dissertation is to contribute to this discussion by providing an improved understanding of how formal and informal institutions – analysed in particular through a Convention Theory (CT) lens – are employed by importers of highly sensitive products in mitigating uncertainties in cross-border relations with their suppliers. This is achieved through a comparative empirical case study of firms importing certified organic food into Germany and Australia. Article 1 in this collection, “‘Sustainable Standards’? How Organic Standards in the EU and Australia Affect Local and Global Agrifood Production and Value Chains”, contributes to literature on food and environmental standards and discusses the impact of (supra-)national organic standards effective in Germany and Australia on different actors along the value chain. Article 2, “Reassessing Supplier Reputation in International Trade Coordination. A German and Australian perspective of Global Organic Food Networks”, deals with the multiple facets of reputation in international trade relations and how it can help to mitigate uncertainties across large distances. Article 3, “Conventions in Cross-Border Trade Coordination. The Case of Organic Food Imports to Germany and Australia”, provides a comprehensive discussion of which conventions within the CT framework are employed by Australian and German importers to overcome quality-related uncertainties in cross-border trade. The final Article 4, “Australien als ‘Global Food Superpower’? Landwirtschaft und Lebensmittelsektor Australiens im Wandel” (Global food superpower? Changes and current challenges in Australia’s food industry), looks at Australia as a case of the changing global character of agricultural and food production and trade, using a value chain perspective to outline these processes. Furthermore, it discusses how the unique Australian environmental situation, related natural risks, and political as well as structural factors currently question Australia’s future as the next Global Food Superpower. Overall, the empirical results affirm that formal institutions such as standards and third-party certification have gained increasing significance over the past two decades. Simultaneously, however, this study argues that these are not enough to overcome uncertainties in trade. Informal institutions like trust, reputation, values related to social and environmental welfare as well as business mentality and culture are likewise approaches that are employed. It is further shown that standards do not necessarily lead to reduced differences in product quality perceptions between suppliers and importers. Also, there seem to be changes in the interpretation of the organic designation, as particularly newer firms reduce the process standard more and more to product quality characteristics. At the same time, ‘dedicated’ companies with intensive holistic supplier relation management, unlike some decades ago, are not restricted to those that focus only on organic products. Conceptually, it is concluded that CT is a useful complementary approach to other frameworks for value chain and production network analyses, particularly due to its strengths to paint a differentiated picture of uncertainty as well as quality designations.

Her dissertation can be downloaded here.

Convenorship of Agrifood

A message from Dr Carol Richards, current Convenor of Agrifood.

A while back, I flagged that I would not stand for re-election as Agrifood Convenor at this year’s conference/business meeting. This will be the end of a four year term, which has been a joy and privilege I must say, and time to elect someone new to the role. To date we have been fairly Aus-centric, so I am encouraging New Zealanders and Australian’s alike to consider nominating for the role. If you are even mildly interested or curious, please can you drop me a line? I can tell you what the position involves. The process will be fairly straight forward – nominations are heard at the business meeting at this year’s conference in Sydney, someone acts as ‘returning officer’, nominees are asked to leave the room, and the remaining caucus vote for the incoming convenor, new convenor is paraded aloft around the town square. Have a think about it, and let me know.

Best wishes to all


For further enquiries about the position or to express your interest in the position, please contact Carol.

Early bird registration: Food Security and Murray Darling Basin

The Institute for Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, is hosting a one day conference, Food Security and the Murray-Darling Basin: Prospects, Opportunities and Challenges on November 19 2014 in the city of Albury, NSW.

As far as organisers know this will be the first major conference to focus on food security in a regional Australia context. Organisers intend for the conference to provide insights into critical food security issues relevant to the Murray-Darling Basin, including: global threats and local responses, agricultural production and food security, adaptation in a changing climate, and food policy and governance issues. The Murray-Darling Basin produces one third of Australia’s food production and it is therefore an important focus for a conference on food security.

Keynote speakers confirmed for the conference include:

  • Dr Nick Austin, CEO, Australian Centre for International Research
  • Assoc Prof Jane Dixon, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University
  • Dr Mark Howden, Chief Research Scientist, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences and
  • Prof Mark Lawrence, Professor in Public Health Nutrition, Deakin University

Further details can be found on their website.

The website contains important information about registration costs, accommodation options and the conference program. Please note that earlybird rates for registration end on October 26 2014.

Level B (Research Fellow) position at ANU

Australian National University is seeking applications for an exciting two-year Level B (Research Fellow) position available in the Health, Equity and Governance group in RegNet. The Research Fellow will work specifically in the “HE2: A systems approach to healthy and equitable eating” project, which is part of the NHMRC Australian Prevention Partnership Centre.

For more information, please visit their website. Applications close 8th October 2014.