Economic Reforms and Food Security: The Impact of Trade and Technology in South

By Reithmuller, Paul | Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management, January 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Economic Reforms and Food Security: The Impact of Trade and Technology in South


Reithmuller, Paul, Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management


SURESH CHANDRA BABU AND ASHOK GULATI (Eds) 2005 Economic Reforms and Food Security: The Impact of Trade and Technology in South Asia Haworth Press ISBN: 1-56022-257-3

This book is a collection of papers presented at a 2002 Conference cosponsored by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research, the Indian Council for International Economic Relations and the International Food Policy Research Institute. There are 21 papers in seven sections: Economic Reforms, Trade, Technology and Food security; Trade Liberalisation and Food security in South Asia; Technology for Food security in South Asia; The Challenge of Water for Food security in South Asia; Market Reforms, Diversification, and Food security; Food security Interventions in South Asia; and Emerging Issues. The emphasis of the book is on India, although there are separate papers on Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.

The role played by small-scale farmers, the backbone of agriculture in South Asia, is discussed in a number of the chapters. Pinstrup-Anderson (Chapter 2) sees a threat being posed to small scale farming in South Asia through out-migration, disease and through globalisation. This latter factor is important since it makes capital available for larger sized farms but not for small-scale farms. Hazell (Chapter 8) regards the changes in national diets, due to rapid economic growth in South Asia, policy reforms and links with the agro-processing sector, as providing opportunities for farmers in South Asia, but concludes that if small farmers are to benefit from new opportunities, then "policymakers will have to assist them rather than leaving everything to market forces alone" (p. 179). While Hazell says that smallholders are typically more efficient producers of many labour-intensive livestock and horticultural products than large-scale operations, smallholders may lack efficiency in marketing their products and also suffer from poor information and access to inputs.

Infrastructure is viewed by a number of authors as having a critical part to play in the region's agriculture. Vyas (Chapter 3) points out that small marginal farmers and agricultural labourers require strong infrastructure support, research and development and enhancement of "institutional capacity". Vyas argues that the state needs to provide these since the private sector is not attracted to investments with long gestation periods and low returns. Joshi, Gluati, Birthal and Tewari (Chapter 12) find that markets and roads are the key determinants that have influenced farmers to diversify into high valued horticultural and livestock products. Furthermore, diversification came with little support from government. Unlike most of the chapter that cite research published elsewhere, this one by Joshi et al does not, but rather presents empirical results from econometric modelling. Raju and Gulati (Chapter 11) address one of key forms of infrastructure in India - irrigation - arguing that reduced investment in irrigation has resulted in the irrigation sector being faced with collapse, or at least operating below its potential. Reform is needed since the price of water is too low, the input supplying agencies are inefficient and the collection of irrigation charges is poor, making receipts per unit of water lower than price. Changes they suggest include making the costing of the service more transparent, linking the quality of the service to price and introducing cost saving innovations.

One of the themes of the book is food security. Hazell (Chapter 8) sees food security as primarily a food distribution issue, with the solution linked more to increasing the income of the poor rather than producing more food. Pinstrup-Andersen (Chapter 2) makes the same point: "Food insecurity persists not because of lack of food but because the people who are food insecure are too poor to afford the food that is available and lack access to the resources to produce adequate food for themselves. …

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