ESR 10:
Stickiness in international trade of agricultural and forestry products

Home Institution: University of Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
Principal Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Patrick Meyfroidt
Co-Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Tobias Kuemmerle
Application date: 16/10/2017-24/11/2017
Starting date: 01/07/2018 or earlier
Duration: 3 years


Interventions to address sustainability challenges related to land use increasingly target supply chains actors such as importers, processers and retailers, and their sourcing decisions. Understanding how international trade reacts to shocks, such as new policies, economic crisis, political overhaul, or droughts, is crucial to avoid undesired spillover effects of supply chain interventions to improve sustainability of land use. A central issue in this context is whether global markets are deeply integrated and fluid so that a shock affecting one company or territory is diluted, or instead if markets exhibit forms of “stickiness” which influence how shocks restructure the production and trade relations, and thus the allocation of environmental impacts.

The objective of this PhD is to analyse how sourcing and selling decisions of actors along supply chains react to interventions and policy changes and in particular which factors influence the rigidity of supply chains. The work will combine large-scale analyses across different regions and commodities relying on subnational and company-specific supply chains data from the TRASE platform, with in-depth focus on a specific commodity in South America or Southern Africa. The research will address the following questions:

  • How are trade networks of agriculture and forestry products related to other geographical, political, cultural, linguistic and historical linkages among countries?
  • How do decision-makers in different positions of supply chains perceive constraints and opportunities to shift their sourcing or selling?
  • How does the stickiness in supply chains influence the likelihood or magnitude of leakage resulting from supply-chains interventions?

The successful PhD student will conduct rigorous research based on data analyses, interviews of key actors and field investigations. This research will lead to recommendations to design supply-chain initiatives that minimize potential leakage through supply chains. Secondments will take place at the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Geography Department of Humboldt University in Berlin.


Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) is one of Belgium’s leading universities, and a pioneer in land system science. The Earth and Life Institute (ELI) is the university’s flagship research institute on sustainability and environmental sciences, with research foci on land-use change, climate change, soil sciences, and biodiversity conservation. We offer an international research environment at the heart of Europe, with a long tradition in land use research using rigorous geospatial, statistical and mixed methods.

We seek

A candidate with a MSc in Geography, Environmental Science, Environmental Economics or related fields. We expect someone who has demonstrated excellence throughout his/her studies and a capacity to conduct independent research. The successful candidate will have a strong interest in the relations between land use and supply chains dynamics. Good data analysis skills and an interest in complex human-environment systems are required.


Prof. Patrick Meyfroidt

Do you consider applying?

In any case please check the eligibility criteria in the first place.

To submit your application, please fill in the requested data in the online application form, upload your application file and submit your application.

Download and carefully read the Guide for Applicants and the ITN Programme’s information note for all specific information on the application and selection procedure.