Division of Labour(Edit)

Most of my neighbours are rice farmers, who grow 3 crops a year - 2 crops of rice and 1 rice fallow green or black gram. Apart from consuming their rice and gram they dont bother to grow anything else. They sell their rice at around Rs 6 /kg of paddy (which is 12/kg of rice) and then buy other food requirements like vegetables, cooking oil, chillies and a host of other things from the market at retail price. Most of them dont eat a balanced or varied diet, and prefer to eat rice as it is their own produce.

I did some diligent calculation of our (family of 3 adults and 2 kids) monthly consumption and it reads: (retail purchase price as on Jan 2006 given in brackets)

Cooking Rice - 15 kg (330.00)

Idli Rice - 10 kg (135.00)

Black Gram - 5 kg (200.00)

Red Gram - 1 kg ( 40.00)

(tur dal)

Green Gram - 2 kg ( 70.00)

Bengal Gram - 1 kg ( 30.00)

Sesame Oil - 2 kg (140.00)

Sunflower Oil- 1 kg ( 55.00)

Chillies Dry - 1/4 kg (10.00)

Coconuts - 25 # (100.00)

Vegetables - 30 kg (300.00)

Fruits - 30 kg (300.00)

Milk - 90 litres (1080.00)

Tamarind - 0.5 kg (15.00)

Fenugreek - 200 g (25.00)

Coriander seeds 150 g (25.00)

Other spices , salt , wheat flour, vermicelli etc which we cant produce in our climate

This works out to 2800 rupees per month. Other things we buy out may be around 1000 rupees per month. Now I know from direct personal experience that you need only 30 cents of land to produce all this (and have a surplus in almost all of it) - in addition you will have around 100 litres of milk per month as surplus (from a single cow) and you can sell it at 1200 rupees if you sell directly. In other words a farmer with 1 acre of irrigated land can produce 12000 rupees worth of goods per month, a third of which he can sell to himself and for the rest of his market he only needs to find 2 families living in a nearby town to buy his produce! Instead, by mono-cropping for the market (where you sell commodities at 40% of retail price and then buy other things at 100% of retail price) we lose a lot of money in what economists would call opportunity costs.

Even the rich upper class (which includes the planners, economists and the politicians!) in India will grudgingly admit that at today's cost of living, 8000 rupees of income is more than enough (after paying rent - which is zero for most small farmers- and food) for children's education or health insurance or a generally good standard of living. I am sure less than 10% of Indians living in cities will have 8000 rupees of surplus income after paying all bills!

So what the farmer needs is a different division of labour as Thoreau would advocate.

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