The Stickiness or Geographic Sourcing Patterns in the International Trade of Agricultural Products

Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium)


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 geographic sourcing patterns function and 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 the 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 an 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 agricultural 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 or geographic sourcing patterns in supply chains influence the likelihood or magnitude of leakage resulting from supply-chains interventions?


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

“My research objective is finding opportunities to improve the sustainability of global commodity supply chains through the development of an analytical framework that enables us to look at companies’ behaviour and geographic sourcing patterns, i.e., stickiness.”

Tiago Reis

PhD Thesis

The sustainability of global agricultural trade: understanding stickiness in Brazil’s soy supply chain.

29.09.2021, Louvain-la-Neuve / Online.


Bager, S., U.M. Persson & N.P. dos Reis (2021). Eighty-six EU policy options for reducing imported deforestation. One Earth 4: 289-306,

Leijten, F.*, N.P. dos Reis*, S. Sim, P.H. Verburg & P. Meyfroidt (2022). The influence of company sourcing patterns on the adoption and effectiveness of zero-deforestation commitments in Brazil’s soy supply chain. Environmental Science and Policy 128:208-215, (*Co-first authors)

Qin, S., Kuemmerle, P. Meyfroidt, M. Napolitano Ferreira, G.I. Gavier Pizarro, M.E. Periago, T.N.P. dos Reis, A. Romero-Muñoz, A. Yanosky (2022). The geography of international conservation interest in South American deforestation frontiers. Conservation Letters: e12859.

Reis, T.N.P. dos, V.G. de Faria, G. Russo Lopes, G. Sparovek, C. West, R. Rajão, M. Napolitano Ferreira, M.M.S. Elvira & R.S.T. do Valle (2021). Trading deforestation – why the legality of forest-risk commodities is insufficient. Environmental Research Letters 16:124025.

Reis, T.N.P. dos, Meyfroidt, E.K.H.J. zu Ermgassen, C. West, T. Gardner, S.L. Bager, S. Croft, M.J. Lathuillière & J. Godar (2020). Understanding the stickiness of commodity supply chains is key to improving their sustainability. One Earth 3(1):100-115,

Russo Lopes, G., M.G. Bastos Lima & T.N.P. dos Reis (2021): Maldevelopment revisited: Inclusiveness and social impacts of soy expansion over Brazil’s Cerrado in Matopiba. World Development 139:105316,

Policy Brief

T. REIS: Assessing relationship patterns in commodity supply chains and their sustainability implications

COUPLED Policy Brief, No. 4, June 2021.

Key messages

  • Persistence in global commodity supply chains is the maintenance over time of supply chains’ geographic
    network configurations, including trade relationships, sourcing and supplying patterns;
  • In Brazil’s soy supply chain, companies with more persistent sourcing behaviors are more likely to adopt zero-deforestation commitments;
  • These more persistent Brazil’s soy companies in sourcing behaviors also have higher deforestation risks;
  • Relationship patterns and whether they are more persistent or volatile need to be considered in the design of public policies, territorial planning and supply chain sustainability interventions because this knowledge informs how companies move, source and influence land use and rural development trajectories.

Read the full Policy Brief (pdf).

… and more

Media coverage

Huffpost. Brazil’s ‘Upside-Down’ Forest Is Facing Devastating Destruction. By Dom Phillips. 27.02.2021.

BBC News Brasil. O projeto rodoviário que ameaça uma das áreas mais conservadas da Amazônia. (The road project that threatens one of the most conserved areas of Amazonia”). 06.08.2020

Université catholique de Louvain. Science Today. Commerce: quelles filières durables pour demain? (Trade: which sustainable sectors for tomorrow?) 24.07.2020.

Deutsche Welle Brazil. Desmate na Amazônia e no Cerrado está em 2% das fazendas. (Deforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado is at 2% of farms). By Edison Veiga. 16.07.2020.