This paper aims to explore the complexity that characterises sugarcane production and supply systems by applying soft systems methodology (SSM) and the viable system model (VSM) based on an interpretive systemic approach. It seeks to understand the extent to which these methodologies may assist in exploring such a complexity.
SSM and VSM were combined with qualitative research methods to explore two sugarcane production and supply systems’ potential improvement possibilities.
Trust, transparency and communication shortcomings, poor miller–grower relationships, deficient systemic commitment, insular view, milling inefficiencies, sugarcane quality, quantity and consistency shortcomings, the industry setup and the lack of a common driver are core issues. SSM and VSM facilitated a thorough understanding, yet could not address detected deficiencies.
The research was restricted to two milling areas, and only SSM and VSM were applied.
Presented findings can be used as a basis to facilitate improvement in sugarcane production and supply systems and to advocate the continuity of holistic considerations.
Neither SSM nor VSM have been applied in the sugar industry context. The sugarcane production and supply systems have been holistically investigated, and soft issues have been considered.
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