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Impact and implications of price policy and land degradation on agricultural growth in developing countries

Impact and implications of price policy and land degradation on agricultural growth in developing countries

Agricultural economics: the journal of the International Association of Agricultural Economics 5(4): 311-324

In many developing countries, a high proportion of the population resides and works in rural areas. Agriculture is the dominant sector in rural areas and has the greatest concentration of poverty: landless workers, small tenant farmers, and small farm owners. Thus, any development strategy that is directed towards increasing employment and alleviating a country's hunger must concentrate on sustainable agricultural growth. Historically, economic development in most countries has been based on exploitation of natural resources, particularly land resources. Soil erosion and land degradation have been serious worldwide. Due to reasons such as high population pressure on land and limited fossil energy supplies, land degradation is generally more serious in the developing world. Empirical studies show that soil erosion and degradation of agricultural land not only decrease the land productivity but they can also result in major downstream or off-site damage which may be several times that of on-site damage. In promoting industrialization, governments of many developing countries adopt a package of price and other policies that reduce agricultural production incentives and encourage a flow of resources out of agriculture. Increasing evidence shows that these policies cause a substantial efficiency or social welfare loss, and a great loss in foreign exchange earnings. In addition, a World Bank study on the effect of price distortions on economic growth rates concluded that neither rich resource endowments, nor a high stage of economic development, nor privatization are able to make up the adverse effects caused by high price distortions. This analysis is primarily concerned with identifying the factors that determine the agricultural production growth rate and in testing the effects these factors have on agricultural growth in developing countries. Specifically, this study involves statistical estimation of an aggregate agricultural growth function based on cross-country data for 28 developing countries. Special attention is devoted to land degradation and agricultural pricing policy, and to the policy implications resulting from the effects these variables have on agricultural and food production growth. The overall results of this study show that price distortions in the economy and land degradation had statistically significant negative impacts while the change in arable and permanent land was positively related to the growth of agricultural production and food production in 28 developing countries from 1971 to 1980. These results emphasize the importance of 'getting prices right' and implementation of sustainable land and water management practices if future growth in food and agricultural output is to be realized and sustained in developing countries.

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Accession: 002131190

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DOI: 10.1016/0169-5150(91)90025-g

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