Cash Crop and Foodgrain Productivity in Senegal: Historical View, New Survey Evidence, and Policy Implications
Senegal has experienced a number of spurts in agricultural production and productivity growth since independence, yet average trends from 1960 through 1993 have been either stagnant (in terms of aggregate production and yields), or negative (in terms of real value of production). Although use of animal traction is ubiquitous, current crop production in the Peanut Basin must be characterized as low external input farming. Farmers are unanimous in their belief that the most important constraint to improving agricultural output is their inability to obtain desired quantities of peanut seed. Inadequate seed has led to lower peanut income and a diminished capacity to purchase productivity-enhancing inputs: aging animal traction equipment is not being replaced, fertilizer use has become virtually nonexistent, the organic matter being returned to the soil is far from adequate, and the use of certified seed is extremely rare, as is the use of chemical inputs to protect seed quality or fight pests. Family labor is under-utilized during slack periods, while wage laborers are rarely hired during peak periods. Two important objectives for the peanut sector are (1) to maintain peanut production at a level that keeps the processing industry running at capacity, and (2) to increase farmers' incomes. Farmers' inability to obtain desired quantities of peanut seed prevents attainment of both these objectives. Although the seed marketing system could be improved, farmers' inadequate cash reserves and poor access to credit are the principal bottlenecks; at present, there is more of a demand-side than a supply-side problem. Although the economic efficiency of current production practices varies by farm type and agroclimatic zone, two findings apply in almost all situations:(1) If farmers continue to cultivate without fertilizer, the primary means of increasing yields and profits will be to increase seeding rates beyond their current levels (which already exceed the rates recommended by extension services); and (2) The marginal value product of household labor is less than the prevailing wage rate, suggesting that more labor than necessary is being used during most of the cropping season.
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