Magoosh GRE

Grain Traceability in Supply Chain Research Proposal

| March 5, 2015

Research Design

Aims and Objectives:

1. Critically examine the current state of traceability in the Nigerian grain sector
2. Conduct a need assessment on the Nigerian grain sector with regards to its traceability: quality and information visibility.
3. Critically explore the benefits of applicability of traceability systems in the Nigerian grain supply chain
4. Develop a framework for implementing efficient traceability system, safety and information transparency
5. Make recommendations for improvement based on the needs assessment

Justifying the research Aims and Objectives

The research aims and objectives presented above have been developed based on the realization that traceability is important in developing an enhanced food supply chain system. Given its importance, various safety and traceability systems and laws are implemented in various countries (Laux, 2007). The EU for example enacted a law in 2005 guiding the implementation of efficient traceability system within peripheral EU countries particularly regarding the food supply chain, yet in a country like Nigeria where the grain supply chain system is important to the development of the food industry, traceability is weak and hardly implemented (Ilebani, 2007). As a result therefore, the aims and objectives presented would allow a critical examination of the specific case of Nigerian grain sector with regard to its traceability system and some of the important issues surrounding the current scenario.

Proposed Data Collection

Data would be collected by utilizing both the qualitative and quantitative research methods with the aim to achieve a balanced, valid and reliable outcome in the proposed research. One of the methods would be through the utilization of the survey technique using a predesigned 7 point likert scale questionnaire. The questionnaire would be administered to Nigerian companies involved in the food supply chain. Also, given the geographical differences in the Nigerian food and supply chain industry, data would be collected across different states and locations to ensure balance and avoid lopsidedness. The questionnaire would be adopted from the work of (Wang et al, 2005) who assessed traceability in the Chinese seafood market, however would be modified to reflect the present reality and meet the current objectives. Similar to the work of Wang (ibid), the questionnaire would contain various parameters and questions bothering on the implementation of traceability within the value and supply chain systems of the organisations. In addition, several stakeholders and managers of grain firms would be interviewed across different companies and departments to gain broader perspective pertaining to the implementation of traceability in their respective organisations.
In addition to both primary data collection, secondary data would be used in support of the primary data. Mainly, such data would be collected from Nigerian food and agricultural management databases in addition to other available documentary evidence. To further boost the data collection and enhance the validity of the research outcome, evidence from previous research particularly from the Universities of Agriculture in Nigeria would be used.
By utilizing the underlined data collection approaches, a sufficiently robust perspective can be gained into the general status of the traceability system of the Nigerian grain supply chain. This would consequently help to develop a framework for future implementation.


Literature Review

During the past decade, the global food and agricultural have been characterized by two main prevailing descriptions: (1) increased intensity of farms into smaller numbers and larger sizes and rising as well as (2) the emergence of integrated supply chain systems connecting consumers with farmers and producers. The changing nature of the food system has mainly relied on electro-mechanical systems, under which there are new challenges for sustainable production and processing practices that promote a balanced approach to the problems of food quality, safety, and good environmental stewardship (Opara, 2001).

Given the increasingly important nature of logistics and supply chain in the development of modern food and agricultural system and in managing food quality and information visibility, traceability has become important in fostering transparency of the supply chain through the use of verifiable records and labelling (Giese, 2001).

As noted by Horvath (2001), traceability became generally known by the ‘bovine spongiform encephalopathy, by the dioxin scandal’, or by ‘melamine’ impured milk. Since then, many consumers have been in constant demand for more quality and trustworthy food products in the market shelves (Kim et al., 1995). This has necessitated the need for more efficiency, transparent technologies and reliable quality management system in every single step of the value and supply chain processes. This has over the years led to the need and gradual formalization and implementation of the quality frameworks (traceability) (Kim et al., 1995).
Kim et al refers “traceability as the sub-domain of the quality ontology (p. 13). They describe the fundamental and necessary characteristics of a proper traceability system, which is essentially the capacity for the identification of both the products and the processes. Kim et al translate the detailed competency questions into the predicate logic and implement it in Prolog declarations. Traceability in the literature is defined in several ways. For example, according to ISO 9001:2000 (Quality Assurance Standard), traceability is “the ability to trace the history, application or location of that, which is under consideration”.
From another perspective, traceability is defined by ISO 8402:1994 as “the ability for the retrieval of the history and use or location of an article or an activity through a registered identification”. Furthermore, the American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS) considers, traceability to be the “registering and tracking of parts, processes and materials used in production, by lot or serial number”. Golan et al. define traceability in terms of depth (levels of the supply chain), breadth (attributes traced) and precision (level of detail) (Smith, 2001).
Given its importance over the years several laws have been established in different countries to formalize the need for traceability in food, agriculture and supply chain systems. Under the The ISO 22005 for example requires in their Food Traceability Standard that every food organization must be familiar with direct suppliers and to whom the product is being sent, on the principle of one-up and one-down. It states that food safety is the joint responsibility of all the actors involved (International Organization for Standardization, 2007). As a result, all organisation who are involved in the food supply chain industry are mandated to store and manage information regarding to the food product that link inputs with outputs, so that when demanded, the information can be provided to the food inspection authorities on a timely basis. In order to achieve a fully traceable supply chain, it is important to develop systems for chain traceability as well internal traceability (Ibid). According to CanTrace (2003) “Traceability has several importance which makes it necessary in the supply chain of every food industry, one of such importance is that it can help to respond and provide guidance against the threats of food security, documenting production practices, meeting regulatory compliance and documenting chain of custody. Furthermore, the use of a traceability system is said to have a lasting impact in ensuring lower distribution costs and reduced recall expenses (Smith, 2001).

Research Methodology

Research Question vs Hypotheses

Given the nature of the proposed dissertation where the overarching aim is to build theory through the development of an efficient and implementable grain supply chain traceability system – rather than the testing of an existing theory, adopting a set of research questions would be more useful than the testing of hypotheses in the dissertation given that hypotheses lends itself to theory-testing (Newman, 1997) which is not within the scope of the proposed study. As a result therefore, the following are the research questions for the proposed study.
Research questions

• What is the nature of traceability in the Nigerian grain supply chain sector?
• What are the benefits of application of traceability system in the grain supply chain sector?
• What are the effective and efficient traceability systems that can be implemented to strengthen to grain supply chain sector?

Research Method

As stated earlier, the two existing research approaches (qualititative inductive and quantitative deductive methods) would be employed in the dissertation. Using both methods, the survey and interview techniques would be adopted for data collection. As explained in the literature, qualitative approach enables the researcher to observe patterns and events as they occur (Saunders et al, 2007). According to the authors, the observation need not be numerical or quantitative observations but the researchers’ observations – which may be based on his/her personal encounter and evaluation of the situation. As further noted by Hussey and Hussey (1997), it allows flexibility in the research process, such that permits a modification of the research emphasis during the course of the research while engendering a close understanding of the research context. In view of the above, adoption of the qualitative method using a semi structured interview technique would allow a more nuanced understanding of the research context than would be allowed using other research approaches.

However, the qualitative approach would be accompanied by the use of qualitative survey data collection and analytical technique. According to Hussy and Hussy (Ibid), the qualitative approach is mostly useful and appropriate for scientific research that involves the development of hypothesis that is then tested and examined with the purpose of establishing a theory, although the researcher’s aim is not to test hypothesis in the proposed dissertation, however the quantitative research method can be used to evaluate whether the theory can be applied in particular cases or not. In the present scenario, it can be used particularly to understand the applicability of the traceability system in the Nigerian grain sector.
In addition, only through a quantitative research design method can data be collected using the survey questionnaire technique which is useful in gathering appropriate data important for the data which ordinarily cannot be collected through other qualitative inductive methods.

Feasibility of the research

There are several issues with regard to feasibility of the proposed study. One of such is the challenge to data gathering given that it involves a country abroad and the researcher’s presence in the country. This would involve the issue of budget, time and other resources. Indeed, while it must be truly acknowledged that undertaking the proposed research would entail several resources, budget, limitations and risks, the researcher is adopting several mitigating strategies against the possibility of such impediments that could inhibit the feasibility of the research outcome. Some of the steps been taken is to work according to a pre-specified timetable while gathering data via phone and through the internet where possible. Another important issue concerning the feasibility of the study pertains to the ethical issues, although such issues would be addressed by taking the right steps to mitigate any possible problem, however collection of data regarding some organisations’ internal grain supply chain management activities might be considered as confidential thus might prompt questions regarding ethics pertaining to the research.

Can-Trace, (2003). Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. <>.
Giese, J.H. (2001). Lab exhibits promote traceability and safety. Food Technol. 55(8): 100, 102-104.

Horvath, L. (2001). Collaboration: the key to value creation in supply chain management. Supply Chain Mgt. 6(5): 205-207.

Hussey, J. and Hussey, R. (1997). Business Research: A Practical Guide for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Students, Basingstoke: Macmillan Business

International Organization for Standardization, (2007). New ISO Standard to Facilitate Traceability in Food Supply Chains. ISO 22005:2007.

Ilebani, F. (2007). Traceability of food products: general framework and experimental evidence. Journal of Food Engineering 81, 347– 356.

Kim, H. M., Fox, M.S. Gruniger, M. (1995). An Ontology of Quality for Enterprise Modeling. IEEE Proceedings of WET-ICE, 105-116. Los Albamitos, CA, USA.

Laux, C.M., (2007). The Impacts of a Formal Quality Management System: A Case Study of Implementing ISO 9001 at Farmers Cooperative Co., IA. Ph.D. Thesis, Iowa State University

Nga, M. (2010). Enhancing quality management of food supply chains through improved logistics and ensured traceability. Theses for the doctorate of philosophy – submitted to the University of Iceland.

Newman, W. (1997) Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches, 3rd edition, Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Opara, L.U., Mazaud, F. (2001). Food traceability from field to plate, Outlook on Agric. 30(4): 239-247.

Saunders, M., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2000). Research Methods for Business Students, 2nd edition, London: Pitman Publishing

Smith, L. (2001). Traceability, crises management and enterprise quality management (EQM) come of age – with real cost savings. mediacoverage/eqm_come_of_age.html Accessed 10 December.

Wang, H, McMeekin, T. A., J. Baranyi, J. Bowman, P. Dalgaard, M. Kirk, T. Ross, S.
Schmid, M. H. Zwietering. (2005). Tracebaility in the supply chain of Sea food companies in China. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 112: 181-194.

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