the costs of rice

andhra pradesh needed around 32 lakh tonnes (rough estimate) of rice in 1961. it produced around 40 lakh* tonnes, according to an estimate of the international rice research institute. forty years later, in 2001, it required around 68 to 70 lakh tonnes. it produced around 93 lakh tonnes. from around 25%, the surplus had increased to 32%-- did that ensure less malnourishment in andhra pradesh than in kerala which produces only one-fifth as much rice as its population needs? no.

the average resident of kerala is richer than the average resident of andhra pradesh: per capita gdp in kerala is around 23% higher than in andhra pradesh. as for malnourishment, it's much higher in andhra pradesh, of course. but according to a recent report prepared by the u.n. world food program (unwfp) surpluses producing andhra pradesh is also much more food insecure than kerala:
New Delhi: India's mineral-rich state Jharkhand is the most hungry and thirsty state in the country and also among the states that has the poorest of sanitation facilities.

According to a report on the State of Food Insecurity in Rural India prepared jointly by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Jharkhand has replaced Orissa from top of the list of hungry states in the country.

The report, which is a corollary to the Food Insecurity Atlas of Rural India that was released in 2001, also ranks the country 94th on the Global Hunger Index of 119 countries.

"On the composite index of food insecurity of rural India, states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are found in the 'very high' level of food insecurity, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat", the report said.

The better performers include Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, all of which report an Index value below 0.53, it added.

Surprisingly, economically developed states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka find themselves in the category of high food insecurity in the report. [emphasis mine].
so, what did andhra pradesh gain from producing so much rice? nearly twice as many people were employed or underemployed, one can safely assume, in 2001, in the production of a little more than twice as much rice as in 1961. it'd seem like all that talk of technology-intensive farming that the green revolution had supposedly ushered in was just that: mere talk. because the green-revolutionary technology only seems to have increased the surpluses marginally because most of the increase in output could as well be attributed to increase in labour employed. by pursuing a model of development that placed less emphasis on people, andhra pradesh seems to have achieved efficiency in neither production nor distribution. this has produced a society more riven by more social and economic inequalities, more deprivation and discontent than it originally started with.

if we consider the pure economic costs now, ignoring the human, ecological, and even political and social costs, they seem to be much higher than the gains: the government pays rs.1,000 as m.s.p for every quintal of paddy now, which is as just as much as the farmer spends to produce it. and for more than two decades his gains have been as bad. isn't it time somebody started calculating the total real costs, not just the economic ones? especially those who are promising the people of telangana that a new state would mean more water and rice?

* the paddy to rice ratio is 3:2.


gaddeswarup said...

More by chance than design, I started to read yesterday a bit about E.F. Schumacher's Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered after seeing this post
Why Factories Aren't Efficient. I wonder whether there is something there.

kuffir said...

thanks for the link. very interesting post.

anu said...

Peter Russet's echo to your question, at a global level.

"Narrowly focusing on increasing production-as the Green Revolution does-cannot alleviate hunger because it fails to alter the tightly concentrated distribution of economic power, especially access to land and purchasing power. Even the World Bank concluded in a major 1986 study of world hunger that a rapid increase in food production does not
necessarily result in food security-that is, less hunger. Current hunger can only be alleviated by "redistributing purchasing power and resources
toward those who are undernourished," the study said. In a nutshell-if the poor don't have the money to buy food, increased production is not going to help them."


in a way, the telegana movement is forcing us to look at deep seated problems/myths that plague most of the country, this post ought to be aimed at the national level. when Swaminathan and co. in the government say technology-intensive farming or even use the word modern-agriculture they speak about the institutional support base that was created; the proliferation of ag univs, institutes, biotech centres, all government funded, these created job opportunities almost exclusively for the upper castes. while the farmer still uses pre-historic technology on his farms.

wooden ploughs are in museums in most parts of the world, here in india -the green revolution show piece, this ancient piece of human and animal labor-powered tool rules. it is used to sow the high priced green revolution seeds and its baggage of high priced fertilizer and high water requirement.

Sridhar said...

Increased food production may not impact food security directly (as it does not address purchasing power of poor) but can have the effect of lowering/maintaining the prices and averting a food crisis by maintaining necessary food reserves.

Kufr's post seem to raise the question about the plight of poor farmers that do not have necessary financial resources or adequate soil fertility or irrigation resources and if they should continue to practice agriculture when farming has become financially unviable. Govts can intervene by subsidizing agricultural inputs, providing easy loans and by improving irrigation facilities. It can be argued that govt intervention thus far mostly benefited rich and upper caste dominated farming regions. But the question is also about the need to let the poor farmers practice agriculture albeit high cost of govt intervention and demonstrated failure of the concerned institutions to translate the objectives and policies to the benefit of farming community. A separate state can give the opportunities to address these issues afresh but at least for the moment there seem to be no vision beyond jobs and irrigation miracles.

RealFan said...


I am not sure if this is relevant to this post, but I feel this is related.
What is your opinion on TDP's promise of Rs.2000 per month for all BPL families? I am not sure of the long term sustainability of such a program , but I feel that is much better than the current subsidized PDS and many other mega projects. Much of these allocations are gobbled up by corrupt politicians and middle men while very little trickles down to the intended needy public.
If implemented properly along with conditions like compulsory education to their children etc, this can really help in reduction of poverty, improve infant mortality, help better nutrition in children and consequently a more progressive society. It will also stimulate local economy as there will be more consumer spending. There is less scope for middlemen as the money is transferred to the bank accounts directly and the onus of judicially making use of that money is on the family rather than corrupt Govt officials or contractors. I feel this is better utilization of our tax money than those grandiose schemes!

kuffir said...


thanks for sharing that. wonderful article.


'Increased food production may not impact food security directly (as it does not address purchasing power of poor) but can have the effect of lowering/maintaining the prices and averting a food crisis by maintaining necessary food reserves'

we've had 'food security' or surplus production since the day the state was formed. are prices in andhra pradesh lower than in any other part of the country? the prices in kerala. which imports large quantities of rice from ap,are the same almost as in ap, right now.

'Kufr's post seem to raise the question about the plight of poor farmers that do not have necessary financial resources or adequate soil fertility or irrigation resources and if they should continue to practice agriculture when farming has become financially unviable.'

right now, the economics are against every kind of farmer, not just the marginal farmer.

kuffir said...


i agree with you on a lot of things you said. i've been writing about a cash transfer system to support rural india for long before the tdp picked up the idea. please check this category of posts: dole.

some people oppose the idea on the ground that the world bank too supports it. i think that's a stupid reason to oppose it.

i support the dole because i think 1) rural india suffers from structural exploitation-- it gets far less for what it produces, from the rest of the economy. and 2) though this exploitation has been going on for several decades, now we've definitely reached a stage when it's impossible for the rural economy to sustain itself and revive livelihoods without direct support, and not subsidies or schemes based support, from the govt.

Sridhar said...

Kufr: Sometime ago you have commented in a response "the consensus seems to be- the indian farmer should remain a farmer, even if he keeps making less and less from it every year". In that sense, I think that agriculture is not an easy profession anymore and in today's conditions a farmer has to be a good manager and intelligent decision maker to be successful. I wish govts can come up with innovative methods of displacing poorly endowed agricultural families into less risky occupations. Also, things like contract farming can be less burdensome and help farmers cope risk better.

Your posts on 'doles', 'creamy layer' and others are enlightening. I think you go against 'conventional' thinking most of the time and do that very well. Doles do not seem to be a bad idea after reading your posts –when coupled with technology and biometrics. I also liked your bashing of Chidambaram and calling NREGA a mindset of brahmanical thinking!

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