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Geography and Agricultural Productivity: Cross-Country Evidence from Micro Plot-Level Data

Author

Listed:
  • Tasso Adamopoulos
  • Diego Restuccia

Abstract

Why is agricultural productivity so low in poor countries relative to the rest of the world? Is it due to geography or constrained economic choices? We assess the quantitative role of geography and land quality for agricultural productivity differences across countries using high-resolution micro-geography data and a spatial accounting framework. Our rich spatial data provide in each cell of land covering the entire globe actual yields of cultivated crops and potential yields for 18 crops, which measure the maximum attainable output for each crop given soil quality, climate conditions, terrain topography, and a level of cultivation inputs. While there is considerable heterogeneity in land quality across space, even within narrow geographic regions, we find that low agricultural productivity in poor countries is not due to poor land endowments. If countries produced current crops in each cell according to potential yields, the rich-poor agricultural yield gap would virtually disappear, from more than 200 percent to less than 5 percent. We also find evidence of additional productivity gains attainable through the spatial reallocation of production and changes in crop choices.

Suggested Citation

  • Tasso Adamopoulos & Diego Restuccia, 2018. "Geography and Agricultural Productivity: Cross-Country Evidence from Micro Plot-Level Data," Working Papers tecipa-598, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:tecipa-598
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    File URL: https://www.economics.utoronto.ca/public/workingPapers/tecipa-598.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Tasso Adamopoulos & Diego Restuccia, 2014. "The Size Distribution of Farms and International Productivity Differences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(6), pages 1667-1697, June.
    2. Nathan Nunn & Nancy Qian, 2011. "The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence From A Historical Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 593-650.
    3. Restuccia, Diego & Yang, Dennis Tao & Zhu, Xiaodong, 2008. "Agriculture and aggregate productivity: A quantitative cross-country analysis," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 234-250, March.
    4. Berthold Herrendorf & Todd Schoellman, 2015. "Why is Measured Productivity so Low in Agriculture?," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 18(4), pages 1003-1022, October.
    5. Arnaud Costinot & Dave Donaldson, 2016. "How Large Are the Gains from Economic Integration? Theory and Evidence from U.S. Agriculture, 1880-1997," NBER Working Papers 22946, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Edward C. Jaenicke & Laura L. Lengnick, 1999. "A Soil-Quality Index and Its Relationship to Efficiency and Productivity Growth Measures: Two Decompositions," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 81(4), pages 881-893.
    7. Tasso Adamopoulos, 2011. "Transportation Costs, Agricultural Productivity, And Cross‐Country Income Differences," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 52(2), pages 489-521, May.
    8. Thomas J. Holmes & Sanghoon Lee, 2012. "Economies of Density versus Natural Advantage: Crop Choice on the Back Forty," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 1-19, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ryota Nakatani, 2017. "External Adjustment in a Resource-Rich Economy: The Case of Papua New Guinea," IMF Working Papers 17/267, International Monetary Fund.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    agriculture; land quality; productivity; spatial allocation; crop choice; cross-country.;

    JEL classification:

    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity

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