Sustainable food security decision-making : an agent-based modelling approach.

Namany, Sarah, Govindan, Rajesh, Alfagih, Luluwah, McKay, Gordon and Al-Ansari, Tareq (2020) Sustainable food security decision-making : an agent-based modelling approach. Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN (print) 0959-6526


Ensuring a consistent and regular availability of food is crucial for food security. Food markets, supplied through both domestic production and international trade, are governed by several risks emerging from unpredictable supply chain disruptions, volatility of commodity prices, along with other unforeseen circumstances such as natural disasters. To mitigate the challenges threatening the stability of food systems, decision-making within the food sector should be enhanced and robust to accommodate any changes that might cause food shortages. Dynamic models, that can predict the behavior of food systems in order to avoid potential future knock-on effects and deficits, are incumbent to ensure the sustainable performance of food systems. This study proposes a dynamic decision-making scheme that simulates strategies of the perishable food market under different circumstances. An agent-based model (ABM) is developed and implemented using python MESA library for a case study in Qatar, illustrating the potential performance of tomato under three different scenarios to be considered, namely: (a) baseline scenario - aiming to reflect current production and market conditions; (b) water resource efficiency scenario - basing decisions on crop water requirement (CWR) depending on weather conditions; and (c) economic risk scenario - applying the concept of forward contracts to hedge against future uncertainties in crop prices. The findings of this study demonstrate that under the baseline conditions, a tomato crop can be supplied through a combination of domestic production and imports depending on the available inventories and prices imposed by exporters. The results obtained for the CWR scenario suggest the need for total reliance on imports in order to meet domestic demand, as there is potentially high-water loss, which amounts to an average of 4.9 Billion m3 per year, if tomato is grown locally. In contrast, the results from the forward contract scenario recommend a 57% dependency on local production in order to mitigate the effects of volatility in global food prices, which contributes to a 63% reduction in environmental emissions. Findings of this research provide insight into the factors that influence strategic decision making by the food sector to enhance its economic and environmental performances under diverse circumstances.

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