Unveiling the factors influencing transparency and traceability in agri-food supply chains: an interconnected framework

Aniekan Essien, Godwin Onyekachi Chukwukelu, Nikolai Kazantsev, Nachiappan Subramanian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Purpose: The global food industry is faced with the dilemma of finding a balance between food wastage and food shortage. Approximately one-third of food produced globally goes to waste, while about 800 million people suffer from undernourishment. Given this context, the purpose of this study is to investigate the unresolved challenges related to enhancing transparency associated with products of high perishability and low shelf life. Design/methodology/approach: The authors conducted 25 interviews with global agri-food supply chains (AFSCs) experts to ask what impedes the progress of the current technologies, such as blockchain, to enable transparency and traceability (T&T) in AFSCs. Findings: The findings indicate barriers at the individual, firm and supply chain levels. Based on these barriers, the authors propose an interconnected framework to explain technologically-driven T&T and guide on barrier removal from AFSCs. The authors conclude that by applying technology (i.e. blockchain) the authors can resolve the tension of supporting T&T in AFSCs. This can enable the efficient and transparent tracking of goods, reduction of food waste and loss, as well as promotion of the use of recyclable packaging and further sustainable practices and materials, all of which are aligned with a range of UN Sustainable Development Goals (2, 8, 10 and 12). Moreover, the authors see that some factors are interrelated. Based on these factors, the authors build an interconnected framework to guide on barrier removal from AFSCs. Managers in AFSC would find the findings especially relevant. Originality/value: Drawing on industrial network theory and signalling theory, the authors propose an interconnected framework for explaining barriers (challenges) and potential solutions (opportunities) to T&T in AFSCs. This framework is developed by examining the interconnections of barriers at micro, meso and macro levels and applying signalling theory to explain how solutions address these barriers. The specific contributions of this study are: the list of barriers that impede the implementation of technological solutions for T&T in AFSCs; and a three-stage framework that explains how to remove the barriers for T&T. The study is limited by the focus on blockchain, which calls for future research once the next decentralised technology becomes available.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalSupply Chain Management
Early online date20 Dec 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Agri-food
  • Blockchain
  • Data transparency
  • Qualitative research
  • Supply chain management
  • Traceability


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