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The environmental efficiency of non-certified organic farming in China: a case study of paddy rice production


  • Sébastien MARCHAND

    () (Université d'Auvergne(UdA))

  • Huanxiu GUO



This case study compares the environmental efficiency of non-certified organic and conventional rice production in southern China. Using plot-season level survey data, we first test the existence of a "technology gap" between the two types of production, and then calculate the environmental efficiency scores based on the use of pure nitrogen, which is considered as an environmentally detrimental input within the framework of the stochastic frontier analysis. Our analysis reveals that organic farming loses its environmental performance at high nitrogen levels and especially during the initial expansion period of organic farming as newly converted organic farmers prefer to increase the use of external nutrients such as nitrogen to compensate for a potential yield loss. These results highlight the uncertainty with which conventional farmers tend to view organic farming. However, we find that the experience gained by organic farmers over time helps increase and maintain their environmental efficiency. We thus warn against the rapid expansion of organic farming and recommend more technical support and strict nutrient regulation to maintain the environmental efficiency of organic farming.

Suggested Citation

  • Sébastien MARCHAND & Huanxiu GUO, 2012. "The environmental efficiency of non-certified organic farming in China: a case study of paddy rice production," Working Papers 201238, CERDI.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdi:wpaper:1410

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Chen, Zhuo & Huffman, Wallace E. & Rozelle, Scott, 2009. "Farm technology and technical efficiency: Evidence from four regions in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 153-161, June.
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    3. Carlos D. Mayen & Joseph V. Balagtas & Corinne E. Alexander, 2010. "Technology Adoption and Technical Efficiency: Organic and Conventional Dairy Farms in the United States," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 92(1), pages 181-195.
    4. Stijn Reinhard & C.A. Knox Lovell & Geert Thijssen, 1999. "Econometric Estimation of Technical and Environmental Efficiency: An Application to Dutch Dairy Farms," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 81(1), pages 44-60.
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    6. Weiming Tian & Guang Wan, 2000. "Technical Efficiency and Its Determinants in China's Grain Production," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 13(2), pages 159-174, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lifen Huang & Jie Yang & Xiaoyi Cui & Huozhong Yang & Shouhong Wang & Hengyang Zhuang, 2016. "Synergy and Transition of Recovery Efficiency of Nitrogen Fertilizer in Various Rice Genotypes under Organic Farming," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(9), pages 1-14, August.
    2. Huang, Wei & Bruemmer, Bernhard & Huntsinger, Lynn, 2016. "Incorporating measures of grassland productivity into efficiency estimates for livestock grazing on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in China," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 1-11.

    More about this item


    Organic farming; Environmental efficiency; Stochastic frontier analysis; China;

    JEL classification:

    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East
    • R15 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Econometric and Input-Output Models; Other Methods
    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics
    • Q12 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Micro Analysis of Farm Firms, Farm Households, and Farm Input Markets

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