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Barriers to circular food supply chains in China

Muhammad Farooque (Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Business School, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand and Department of Business Administration, Sukkur IBA University, Sukkur, Pakistan)
Abraham Zhang (Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Business School, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand and Lumen Research Institute, Excelsia College and Indiana Wesleyan University, Macquarie Park, Australia)
Yanping Liu (Department of Management Science and Engineering, Business School, Nankai University, Tianjin, China)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Article publication date: 28 June 2019

Issue publication date: 21 August 2019




This paper aims to identify and systematically analyze the causal-effect relationships among barriers to circular food supply chains in China.


Grounded in multiple organizational theories, this paper develops a theoretical framework for identifying relevant barriers to integrating circular economy philosophy in food supply chain management. The study uses 105 responses from Chinese food supply chain stakeholders including food processors, sales and distribution channels, consumers and government officials. It applies a fuzzy decision-making trial and evaluation laboratory (DEMATEL) method to examine the causal-effect relationships among the identified barriers.


Overall, the results suggest two key cause barriers: first, weak environmental regulations and enforcement, and second, lack of market preference/pressure. Meanwhile, lack of collaboration/support from supply chain actors is the most prominent barrier. The key cause and prominent barriers are also identified for each of the supply chain stakeholder involved.

Research implications

The study offers practical insights for overcoming barriers to integrating circular economy philosophy in the management of supply chains in the Chinese food sector, as well as in other contexts where similar challenges are faced. It also sheds light on which organizational theories are most suitable for guiding similar studies.


To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first barrier study on circular food supply chains. The use of multiple organizational theories for the development of the theoretical framework is unique in barrier studies. The study offers insights from multiple stakeholders in the Chinese food supply chains.



Disclosure statement: No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

This work is funded by Humanities and Social Science Project of Chinese Ministry of Education [grant number 17YJAZH055], the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities of China (No. 63182056), Collaborative Innovation Center for China Economy and Asia Research Center in Nankai University.


Farooque, M., Zhang, A. and Liu, Y. (2019), "Barriers to circular food supply chains in China", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 24 No. 5, pp. 677-696.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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