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

Early Stage Researcher: Tiago Reis

Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium)

About me

I was working at IPAM, which is a Brazilian science-based NGO located in Brasília and other eight places in the Amazon. It is dedicated to producing scientific knowledge and to bridging the gaps between science and policy in order to improve the social, economic and ecological conditions of the Amazon and Cerrado biomes. My work involved qualitative and public policy assessments, including fieldwork and expeditions, but also political advocacy through forums and coalitions with public and private sector actors, such as UNFCCC conferences, Soy and Cerrado Working Groups, Climate and Forest Code Observatories. During these three and half years, I had the opportunity to learn, work and research many topics related to land-use science and policy, such as climate change mitigation and adaptation policies, anti-deforestation, land-tenure, REDD+ policy design, implementation and evaluation, private sector anti-deforestation initiatives, such as the Amazon Soy Moratorium.

The interdisciplinary approach and the assumptions of a telecoupled world in the COUPLED project called my attention. After a few years working with coalitions and technical working groups to develop solutions, I became motivated to go deeper in the scientific knowledge and assume a stronger academic perspective over land-use problems. Particularly, the issue of agricultural and forestry supply chains and how they determine land use became very important for me.

My research in COUPLED will be focused on understanding how agricultural supply chains behave in face of external changes and shocks. As a result, this research will provide an analytical tool capable of exposing economic, social, environmental and geographical trade-offs for public and private policy-makers who are developing regulations and policy instruments.

My research objective is developing an analytical framework that enables us to understand how agricultural supply chains function in terms of stickiness.


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 research conducted is based on data analyses, interviews of key actors and field investigations. It will lead to recommendations to design supply-chain initiatives that minimize potential leakage through supply chains.

Principle Supervisor: Patrick Meyfroidt (Université catholique de Louvain, Georges Lemaître Centre for Earth and Climate Research – TECLIM)


Tiago Reis

Université catholique de Louvain, Earth and Life Institute, Georges Lemaître Centre for Earth and Climate Research (TECLIM)

Place Pasteur 3, bte L4.03.08, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium