Given the experience with recurrent famine in Sub-Saharan Africa, these observers argue that the production of cash crops ought to be discouraged, promoting instead the planting of food crops to ensure food security through self-sufficiency. Yet the adoption of such a strategy as the main objective of agricultural policy ignores both empirical evidence and economic theory.
As the term implies, food crops are raised for the consumption of the farmer and their family. While cash crops can include food crop surpluses that are sold in local markets, they are generally understood to be crops produced exclusively for sale and, in many instances, crops produced for export. Examples of cash crops include sugar cane, oil seeds, fiber crops, vegetables, coffee, cocoa, tea, tobacco, fruit and rubber trees. Food crops, on the other hand, generally involve basic staples such as cereals, roots and tubers.
Most experts subscribe to the "theory of comparative advantage" in favor of growing cash crops.
According to this theory, welfare is maximized if nations specialize in the production of those goods and services which they can produce at relatively low cost. They can then export these goods in the world market and use the foreign exchange earnings to import those goods which they do not produce as efficiently. Thus, if a country can grow tobacco or tea more effectively than it can produce wheat or corn, it should allocate its resources towards the production of these cash / export crops.
Adapted from Orville FREEMAN
A. Guided Commentary
1) Referring to the text, what do many farmers in many countries focus their production on? (3 points)
2) How do some critics view cash crop production, according to the text? (3 points)
3) Based on the text, state why food crops are produced. (3 points)
4) Give both the advantages and disadvantages for nations specialized in cash crop production, referring to the text. (4 points)
Which production would be beneficial to the economy of a developing country like Burkina Faso, food crops or cash crops? Justify your answer. (6 points)