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Food supply chain thefts rise in 2023

BSI’s Supply Chain Risk Insights Report 2024 identifies global trends and six insights to help confidence grow.

20 February 2024: Food continues to be the commodity most at risk of theft in the global supply chain and now accounts for a third of all hijacking incidents – up 29% in 2022. Amidst the ongoing impact of inflation globally, these data suggest thieves are increasingly targeting basic goods that have experienced significant price increases.

The analysis, from the leading global provider of supply chain intelligence, BSI, finds that food and beverage items now represent 22% of all thefts (up from 17% in 2022 and 14% in 2021). Theft of agricultural food products has also risen to 10% and now accounts for one in ten hijacking incidents. The number of electronic thefts has remained steady, highlighting the continued targeting of high-value goods for theft.

BSI’s report identifies key global trends and outlines six organizational insights to support smoother global trade and accelerate progress to a fair society and sustainable world. These include the benefits of a proactive approach to risk powered by data and the importance of taking a 360-degree perspective on climate-related events to future-proof operations.

Thefts of food in transit are often relatively easy in comparison to higher-value commodities, as these commodities tend not to be shipped with tracking devices and anti-theft technologies – notable incidents from 2023 include one involving the theft of more than 52 tons of olive oil in Greece and the theft of 200 hams in Spain before Christmas. With regard to higher-value commodities, the last year has seen a number of notable incidents, including a group in Egypt using false paperwork to purchase pharmaceutical shipments for fake pharmacies, fraudulently diverting $9.7 million (USD) worth of drugs.

Types of thefts have changed, with cargo theft remaining notably high, indicating the importance of leveraging smart technology solutions to mitigate this risk. There has been a drop in thefts from facilities (26% to 21%) but a rise in theft of containers or trailers (4% to 14%). and of employee belongings, truck parts or cash (7% to 10%). Thefts are highest in Europe (37%) and North America (23%). Nearly seven in ten (68%) thefts in 2023 affected trucks, although this varies by region, with violent hijackings more common in North and South America, and thieves more commonly targeting parked trucks in Europe, linked to a lack of secured parking as well as rest requirements for drivers.

The report identifies six imperatives for organizations to prioritize, including:

  • Willingness to collaborate can help organizations uncover the opportunity presented by today’s supply chain challenges: No one organization can accelerate progress alone.
  • Recognizing the changing nature of risk has the potential to unlock huge opportunities by enabling organizations to prepare for different eventualities.
  • Taking a proactive approach to risk, powered by data and actionable insights, can help manage and mitigate vulnerabilities. These insights can be a tool to answer today’s supply chain questions.
  • Approaching the ever-changing global landscape with an agile and adaptable mindset is crucial in a time of geopolitical uncertainty.
  • Taking a 360-degree perspective on climate-related events has the potential to help future-proof operations: A “new era” of extreme climate events requires a new approach.
  • Getting ahead of rapidly evolving legislation, including via evidenced supply chain compliance, can deliver a competitive advantage.

Susan Taylor Martin, Chief Executive, BSI, said: “It’s been another remarkable 12 months in the global supply chain. In addition to recent events in the Red Sea, we have seen everything from geopolitical tensions to economic uncertainty, and from extreme weather events to technology-powered digital disruption. The convergence of these powerful factors provides a volatile and complex backdrop for organizations seeking to accelerate progress to a fair society and sustainable world by reducing their environmental impact and improving social responsibility in their supply chain.

“Ensuring smooth global trade can bring key benefits across society, helping to keep costs down for individuals and organizations. In 2024, collaboration can empower organizations seeking to open up the opportunity presented by today’s supply chain challenges and respond to everything from rising theft to climate-related disruption.”

Jim Yarbrough, Global Director, Supply Chain Solutions, BSI, said: “Food and beverage continue to be the top commodities stolen in transit throughout the supply chain. Such products are always in high demand, and inflationary factors have resulted in sharp price increases over the past few years. To better navigate the challenges of the modern global supply chain landscape, supply chain leaders can make the most of supply chain intelligence solutions to help them implement proactive and robust supply chain risk management strategies. Equally, the shared experience of the global pandemic and subsequent geopolitical and economic challenges has taught us that no single organization can handle supply chain management on their own – collaboration is absolutely critical.”

The full Supply Chain Risks Insight Report can be downloaded here.