Productivity of organic and conventional agriculture

ocThe raging debate on organic-conventional agriculture, and with regard to productivity in particular, is far from conclusive. This article explored the productivity comparison further, through the estimation of a common production technology for 74 countries around the world, for the period 2005 to 2014.

Conventional agriculture was found to be more productive than organic agriculture. Thus, whether from different production technologies or the same, organic land is found to be less productive than conventional land. Whilst productivity of conventional agriculture is exponentially rising, that of organic is declining, although with a quadratic growth path. For every hectare of conventional agricultural land given up, only 0.540 hectare of organic land area is substituted. Based on elasticity of substitution of 0.358, the isoquant is relatively straight (vertical), therefore, much more conventional land need to be substituted for, with organic land area.

The above results require increased research in organic agriculture that would generate knowledge to increase output of organic produce. Further, new and improved fertilising and pest control productivity enhancing research is essential, as increase in these, would have a significant impact on land productivity. This would contribute to increased efficiency. Increased land productivity means more output per unit of land cultivated, therefore more profit as there will be less currency cost per unit of output, particularly as certification fees are partly based on land area certified. The level of marginal rate of substitution and elasticity of substitution demands re-invigoration of the promotion of organic technology by stakeholders in the organic movement.

An interesting question that could not be addressed is, what is the optimal input ratio (organic-conventional land) that will enable the production technology attain at least constant returns-to-scale? Had the translog function been appropriate, this could have been established by the Ray (1998) approach. Further research can explore this.