World Population and food grain production

25/08/2010

The world population is growing at the rate of about 1.3% – a few decades ago, the growth rate was over 2%- and will soon reach 7 billion. The world food grain production is around 2200 million tonnes which works out to a per capita production of about 300 kg per year. If cattle are not fed with grains the current level of production can sustain 10 billion people. India for its population of about 1175 million produces about 220 million tonnes and is said to be self-sufficient or even marginally surplus. This means that per capita food grain requirement is only about 200 kg per year.

In  recent years, the annual increase in food grain production is not satisfactory. However, with several countries in Africa and Latin America like Ethiopia, Tanzania, Sudan, Uganda, Congo, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay selling or giving on lease large areas of farm land to foreign governments, foreign corporates and individuals, the production is likely to increase substantially in these continents. This is a welcome development, as Africa’s population growth rate is very high with several countries like Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Madagascar, Nigeria and Tanzania registering population growth of 2% to 3.5%. Moreover, the continent is already highly deficit in grains.  Fortunately, in both Africa and Latin America, land utilization for agriculture is very low- less than 10% of the potentially arable land.. With the near stagnant or negative population growth in Europe, North America(here most of the growth is by immigration) and a few Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, the share of Africa and Latin America in world population  will keep increasing

The governments in Africa and Latin America should also allow foreign and local private sector to provide on “Build, Operate and Transfer” basis agricultural infrastructure like irrigation projects- dams and canals, rural roads, grain storage space etc. 

There is strong criticism in certain quarters against what they call “land grab” and “agri-colonialism” in Africa and Latin America. They also express fear that several small scale farmers will become jobless. These are unfounded. Bringing in large areas of land under cultivation and building infrastructure will generate large scale employment even if these sectors are completely mechanized. Since land utilization in these continents is very low, compared to other continents, there is not going to be any ecological problems. It is also to be remembered that some European countries including Russia have sold/leased out land to foreigners with a view to increase local food grain production. 

The growing world population should not cause worries if the land deals in Africa and Latin America become successful.


Price rise in India

13/08/2010

Both the rightist and leftist political parties blame the central government of India for the price rise. Almost all the political parties continuously demand increase in wages of all workers and employees-agricultural workers, textile workers, factory workers, bank employees, government employees, public sector industrial workers etc. and the wages and salaries keep increasing. Not only this, the political parties also demand more regulations on working hours-shorter work time. This means lower production. When production/productivity is low and wages keep increasing, it is natural for prices to keep going up. The prices would have gone up, whichever party had been in power.

 20-30 years ago, one should have been seriously concerned about sufferings of unemployed and under employed people consequent on price rise. But now, the issue before the country is not unemployment or under employment but of shortage or acute shortage of labour on all fronts- agriculture, plantation, industry, construction, service sector, trade, petty business, domestic work etc. The labour shortage is felt both in urban and rural areas. If the employment exchanges show increasing number of registrations, it is only due to unwillingness of people to take up jobs which do not require their educational qualification. If prices increase, people can think of taking up available jobs, working over time, doing two jobs (one full time work for 6 hours and one part time work for 2-3 hours. Agricultural workers and others in rural areas work only for 5-6 hours). This will incidentally minimize the labour shortage.

Longevity has gone up. Pensioners are getting pension for longer period now than before. One way of curtailing price rise will be to increase the age of retirement by about 5 years thereby increasing the availability of workforce.

School education could be curtailed by 1-2 years and university education by six months-one year. This will make available more number of people for work which will increase production.

In this connection, it may be relevant to mention that the government while prescribing minimum wages for workers in particular sectors should fix wages per hour instead of per day.