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Agriculture and Rural Development

Commodities (mostly) continue to tumble

John Baffes's picture

We just published our Commodity Market Outlook for the third quarter of 2015, and report that most prices declined in the second quarter of 2015 due to ample supplies and weak demand, especially in industrial commodities (see figure below).

Energy prices rose 12 percent in the quarter, with the surge in oil offset by declines in natural gas (down 13 percent) and coal prices (down 4 percent). However, energy prices fell on average to 39 percent below 2014 levels. Natural gas prices are projected to decline across all three main markets—U.S., Europe, and Asia—and coal prices to fall 17 percent. Excluding energy, our report notes a 2 percent decline in prices for the quarter, and forecasts that non-energy prices will average 12 percent below 2014 levels this year. Iran’s new nuclear agreement with the US and other leading governments, if ratified, will ease sanctions, including restrictions on oil exports from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Downside risks to the forecast include higher-than-expected non-OPEC production (supported by falling production costs) and continuing gains in OPEC output. Possible (less likely) upside pressures may come from closure of high-cost operations—the number of operational oil rigs in the US is down 60 percent since its November high, for example—and geopolitical tensions. 

Natural resource booms are a mixed blessing for local communities, too*

Punam Chuhan-Pole's picture

The impact of natural resource wealth on macroeconomic outcomes is well researched, with the debate centered on whether resources are bad for development (i.e., the phenomenon of the resource curse). However, relatively little attention has been given to examining the effect on communities where those resources are located. 

But interest in the local impact of resource abundance is growing, underpinning a nascent literature.  The focus of this research is on exploring whether extractive activities improve or harm welfare in adjoining regions, and how the benefits or costs are transmitted to the local population.  The answers to these questions can inform policy, leading to better outcomes, and may also help us understand the sources of regional and social tensions associated with extractive industries. 

Why are women farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa less productive?

Kevin McGee's picture
Researchers have documented a wide array of gender disparities in sub-Saharan Africa that have important implications for individual and household well-being. Perhaps one of the most significant disparities is in agricultural production, the primary economic activity for the majority of the population in sub-Saharan Africa. Closing this gender gap in agricultural productivity would not only improve the welfare of female farmers but could also have larger benefits for other members of the household, especially children.

​Good food and good economics both start with quality ingredients

Alberto Zezza's picture
Do economists and policy analysts pay enough attention to the quality of the data they work with? The focus in these professions seems to be much more on using and developing sophisticated econometric and statistical models, or pretty data visualization software, than on assessing the quality of the data that are fed into those models and tools (let alone working to improve the quality of the data).

Building feedback into project implementation: A visit to the Social Observatory

Ken Chomitz's picture
“Do you decide on what types of clothes to wear based on your own preferences?”  That’s a question on a survey instrument designed to assess whether Tamil Nadu’s Empowerment and Poverty Reduction Project (part of the Pudhu Vaazhvu Project or PVP) is actually having an impact on women’s empowerment. The question resonated strongly with the project beneficiaries I met. For them, it was a touchstone indicator of empowerment. That may be because it was crafted by a group of the women for whom the project is designed. 

Geographical poverty traps in rural areas: A growing global problem

Edward B. Barbier's picture
More than one-third of the rural population in developing countries lives on less-favored agricultural land, according to global spatial datasets from 2000. How, then, does this distribution influence the incidence of poverty in these countries? 

A Bitter Side to Andhra Pradesh's Ex-Post Sugarcane Permit System

Richard J. Sexton's picture

India is the World’s second largest producer of sugarcane (after Brazil). Approximately 45 million Indian farmers are involved in cane production, and cane processing is the second largest agro-processing sector in the Country. In her dissertation research on this industry (supervised by Goodhue and Sexton) Sandhya Patlolla encountered an unusual marketing practice that is unique to the Andhra Pradesh (AP) State. Private sugar processors issue ‘permits’ to selected cane growers a few weeks before harvest. These permits allow growers to deliver a specified amount of cane during a specified period of time. Farmers without a permit must sell their cane at a reduced price for manufacture into gur, a traditional Indian sweetener. The price difference averaged 43% over the six years of data acquired for our study. We wondered why sugar processors in AP would create uncertainty among farmers by using ex post permits instead of offering ex ante production contracts?

Understanding the agricultural input landscape in Sub-Saharan Africa

LTD Editors's picture

Conventional wisdom holds that Sub-Saharan African farmers use few modern inputs despite the fact that most growth-inducing and poverty-reducing agricultural growth in the region is expected to come largely from expanded use of inputs that embody improved technologies, particularly improved seed, fertilizers and other agro-chemicals, machinery, and irrigation. Yet following several years of high food prices, concerted policy efforts to intensify fertilizer and hybrid seed use, and increased public and private investment in agriculture, how low is modern input use in Africa really?

Who will feed China in the 21st Century?

Will Martin's picture

A recent surge in China’s food imports has rekindled concerns about global food demand raised by Brown (1995) and about food self-sufficiency in China. According to UN Comtrade data, China’s trade in food was roughly balanced until 2008 but subsequently moved into deficit, with net imports rising to $38.7 billion in 2013. A key question is whether China will become a massive net food importer like Japan and the Republic of Korea, which rely on world markets for more than 70 percent of grain and soybean demand.
China’s rapid economic growth, at 8.5 percent average annual per capita in purchasing power parity terms since economic reform began in 1978, has dramatically changed Chinese diets. While China’s per capita calorie consumption appears likely to be approaching its peak, the composition of food demand seems likely to continue to change, as consumers shift away from basic staples and towards animal-based products. This shift to greater dietary diversity imposes greater burdens on agricultural resources since animal-based diets require much more agricultural resources than vegetable-based diets.

Small Price Incentives in Land Titling Encourage the Inclusion of Women

LTD Editors's picture

During the 1990s and 2000s, nearly two dozen African countries proposed de jure land reforms extending access to formal, freehold land tenure to millions of poor households, but many of these reforms stalled. Titled land remains largely the preserve of wealthy households and, within households, mainly the preserve of men.