Brian Sims

“Food supply chain theft episodes continued to rise in 2023” asserts BSI

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, rising by 29% in 2022. Amid the ongoing impact of inflation on the global stage, collated data suggests that thieves are increasingly targeting basic goods that have experienced significant price increases.

Conducted by the British Standards Institution (BSI), the analysis finds that food and beverage items now represent 22% of all thefts (up from 17% in 2022 and 14% in 2021). The theft of agricultural food products has also risen to 10% and now accounts for one in every ten hijacking incidents. The number of electronic thefts has remained steady, in turn highlighting the continued targeting of high-value goods for theft.

BSI’s report identifies key global trends and outlines six organisational insights designed to support smoother global trade and accelerate progress to a fair society and sustainable world. These include the benefits of a proactive approach towards 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 just before Christmas.

With regard to higher-value commodities, the last year has witnessed a number of notable incidents, including a group in Egypt using false paperwork to purchase pharmaceutical shipments for fake pharmacies and fraudulently diverting US$9.7 million 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 (at 37%) and North America (23%). Nearly seven in every ten (ie 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, which is linked to a lack of secured parking as well as rest requirements for drivers.

Key imperatives

The detailed BSI report identifies six imperatives for organisations to prioritise.

The willingness to collaborate can help organisations uncover the opportunity presented by today’s supply chain challenges. It’s felt that no single organisation can accelerate progress alone.

Recognising the changing nature of risk has the potential to unlock huge opportunities by enabling organisations to prepare for different eventualities.

Adopting a proactive approach towards risk, powered by data and underpinned by 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 what’s now a time of geopolitical uncertainty.

Taking a 360-degree perspective on climate-related events has the potential to help future-proof operations. It’s very much the case that a ‘new era’ of extreme climate events requires a new approach.

What’s more, remaining ahead of rapidly evolving legislation – including via evidenced supply chain compliance – can deliver a competitive advantage.

Convergence of powerful factors

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

The BSI’s CEO added: “Ensuring smooth global trade can bring key benefits across society, helping to keep costs down for individuals and organisations alike. In 2024, collaboration can empower organisations 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 for supply chain solutions at the BSI, stated: “Food and beverage continue to be the top commodities stolen in transit throughout the supply chain. Such products are always in high demand, while 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.”

In conclusion, Yarbrough commented: “Equally, the shared experience of the global pandemic and subsequent geopolitical and economic challenges has taught us that no single organisation can handle supply chain management on its own. Collaboration is absolutely critical.”

*The full BSI Supply Chain Risks Insight Report can be downloaded from the BSI Group’s website

Company Info

British Standards Institution (BSI)

Davy Avenue
Milton Keynes

01908 814689

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