What determines agricultural production pattern?

What determines agricultural production pattern?

AS it has been in some of the past essays, today’s discussion will try to give a macro view of an entire sector as opposed to the individual performance of players in the value chain.

And our attention today will revolve around the production pattern of some crops grown in Tanzania. In the academic arena, economists prefer to use the “comparative advantage” principle as a guiding compass for any producer in a supposedly free-market economy to decide on the type and quantity of the product to be produced.

The principle hinges on the costs of production as the leading factor in determining the fate of it all. Tanzania is a producer of both cash and food crops.

The former is largely for the export market with its roots in the pre-colonial epoch depending on the then masters’ interests whose biggest ambition was to feed their industries in Europe whose products would saturate their markets.

And the latter is mostly for local consumption chiefly with little control of the state and people produced that for the primary reason of eating. With time though, production has fluctuated, interests changed and patterns conspicuously varied.

Countries in Africa have little difference from what we have described in Tanzania, however, the other parts of the globe are giving us a run for our money in terms of how their product is taking different shapes over time, but the significant reason (if not the biggest) is a change of demography and rise of the middle class.

With the change in income, so many people are resorting to abandoning some of the food while increasing rations of other types.

And this is why the current setting in Tanzania pushes us to beg the question, what determines the agricultural production?

If there is a subsector that has managed to attract the attention of many Tanzanians and moved so many in the non-farming sector into engaging in the sector, then horticulture should top the list.

Many are now thinking about producing avocadoes at a speed that was observed a few years ago in which many were seen getting into watermelon production for purely commercial purposes. Those who produce maize, at a household level, largely do so out of the food security desire and if a surplus is realized then will be sold to the market, albeit in a very little quantity.

Similarly, those in the cassava, rice and probably potatoes industries will share the same motive behind their engagement in food production.

Equally important, producers of cloves, cashew nuts, cotton and coffee are arguably doing so while fully aware that the external market will consume their products, no wonder in the years that market prices are so low, as it happen in pigeon peas and cashew, explanations that external markets, that are our traditional buyers have either refused to buy or lowered the prices because one or two reasons, gets a very smooth sail in many people’s mind.

It is unthinkable that Tanzania today will start crying for hunger – thanks to deliberate efforts by both private and public sectors in upping the production of food crops loved by many in the country – and a force to reckon in cash crops production, the likes of cashew, avocadoes, cut flowers and many horticultural products.

However, one might ask if this trend will continue for long and if the production pattern should be market driven, publicly sanctioned or a mixture of the two. While the latter might look strange, as it contains some elements used in a command economy, the truth is that it will give us as a nation a sense of concentration which will, in turn, increase our performance.

What if the powerthat- be will wake up in the morning and announce that every household in the country should cultivate not less than three acres of maize, beans and cashew, just because we are sure that it will boost our food security as well as ensure the flow of foreign currencies from our seasoned experts.

But again what if the current private sector decides to do the same thing without being interfered with by the government and still hit the national target or we should just resign to the old thinking that costs should be a leading determinant of our production pattern? It is a mind-boggling question for sure but the substance in it gives us time to ponder because it deserves our attention.

You might be bright, but a brighter fellow exists

DEAR nephew Milambo Greetings from this confused ...

Author: Zirack Andrew

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