Central Planning in Czechoslovakia: Organization for Growth in a Mature Economy

By Jan M. Michal | Go to book overview
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Chapter 4
AGRICULTURE

1. Importance of Agriculture in the Czechoslovak Economy

In contrast to the over-all economic growth, agricultural production in Czechoslovakia remained below the prewar level throughout the period under study. Between 1948 and 1958, output rose, in terms of gross value, as described in Section 2, by approximately one-third. This was a rather moderate increase in view of the fact that 1948 was not a good year for crops, and a very bad year for livestock after the drought of 1947. Throughout the decade under study, output lagged behind increasing demand for farm products. Czechoslovak planning authorities accepted rather reluctantly the need for a certain increase in imports of food, as compared with prewar needs, but they also tried to put a brake on increasing demand by keeping consumers' prices for food high: in 1958, food prices on the average were about 90 per cent higher than in 1948, as compared with the over-all estimated increase of less than 60 per cent in the cost of living (see Table 7.2).1

In a market economy, more resources would be attracted to agriculture. This was not so in Czechoslovakia.

The agricultural labor force was reduced sharply, with no over-compensating increase in productivity per worker, as in developed market economies.2 In 1948, 2.2 million persons, or 39.6 per cent of the economically active population, were working in agriculture and forestry; in 1957, there were only 2.0 million, or 29.6 per cent (adjusted percentages from Table 1.7). Agriculture alone, excluding forestry, suffered an even sharper decrease in manpower. According to the census of December 31, 1948, 2,222,000 people were working permanently in agriculture, but according to the census of February 1, 1958, there were only 1,692,000--a decrease of 24 per cent. Young people, and men especially, were leaving agricul

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1
Nevertheless, in comparison by countries, consumption of food is fairly high in Czechoslovakia (see Chapter 9, Section 6).
2
In developed market economies, the agricultural labor force also dropped, but productivity per worker increased faster than the growing demand for farm products.

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