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Productivity and Comparative Advantage in Rice Agriculture in South-East Asia Since 1870


  • Pierre van der Eng


Rice long dominated the agricultural economies of South-East Asia. Given the economic predominance of agriculture, the development of rice production had a significant bearing on the economies in the region. This article explains why the countries of mainland South-East Asia long dominated the international rice market. It quantifies labor productivity in rice production and argues that simple, low-cost and labor-extensive, but low-yielding production technology allowed farmers in mainland South-East Asia to achieve significantly higher levels of labor product-ivity than in the more densely populated rice-producing areas in South-East Asia and Japan. High levels of labor productivity were a major source of comparative advantage in rice production for Burma, Thailand and Southern Vietnam. Copyright 2004 East Asian Economic Association.

Suggested Citation

  • Pierre van der Eng, 2004. "Productivity and Comparative Advantage in Rice Agriculture in South-East Asia Since 1870 ," Asian Economic Journal, East Asian Economic Association, vol. 18(4), pages 345-370, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:asiaec:v:18:y:2004:i:4:p:345-370

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. BASSINO, Jean-Pascal & ENG, Pierre van der, 2016. "Asia's 'Little Divergence' in the 20th Century: Evidence from PPP-based direct estimates of GDP per capita, 1913-1969," Discussion paper series HIAS-E-28, Hitotsubashi Institute for Advanced Study, Hitotsubashi University.
    2. Pierre van der Eng, 2014. "International food aid to Indonesia, 1950s-1970s," Departmental Working Papers 2014-19, The Australian National University, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics.

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