Agricultural productivity growth and drivers: a comparative study of China and India uri icon


  • Design/methodology/approach - This paper applies different analytical framework to address different research questions using data since 1980. China study estimates a parametric output-based distance function using a translog stochastic frontier function. Productivity growth index and its multiple components are calculated using parameters derived from the parametric approach to identify the characteristics of technology such as structural bias. India study first applies data envelopment analysis to estimate the aggregate productivity growth index, technical change (TC), and efficiency change. Next productivity indexes by for traditional crops are estimated using growth accounting framework at state level. Finally, a panel regression links TFP on its determinants.
  • Findings - Several common themes emerge from this comparative study. Faced with similar challenges of limited resources and growing demand, improving productivity is the only way to meet long-term food security. Agriculture sector has performed impressively with annual TFP growth beyond 2 percent in China and between 1 and 2 percent in India since the 1980s. The TFP growth is mainly propelled by technological advance but efficiency had been stagnant or even deteriorated. This study provides a granular picture of within country heterogeneity: fast growth in the North and Northeast part of China, South and East of India.
  • Originality/value - Each country study reveals certain prospects of the agricultural sector and production technology. China analysis statistically confirms the existence of technical inefficiency and technology progress, suggests the translog form is appropriate to capture the production technology and satisfies conditions stipulated in theoretical models. The results indicate TC does not influence the contribution of output or input to the production process. India study pinpoints the lagging productivity growth of traditional crops, which still derives growth from input expansion. Although different states benefited from different crops, sector-wide productivity gain is primarily the result of diversification to high-value crops and livestock products.
  • Purpose - China and India have made significant strides in transforming their agricultural sectors to cut hunger and poverty for the masses through improved agricultural productivity. Given limited land and shift of labor to non-agricultural sector, increasing productivity will continue to be central in agricultural growth in the twenty-first century. The purpose of this paper is to provide comparative analysis of the agricultural total factor productivity (TFP) growth in the two countries. It complements existing literature by examining the evolution and drivers of TFP at disaggregated sub-national level. Richer data allows a deeper understanding of the nature and drivers of TFP growth in the two countries.
  • Research limitations/implications - The study suggests some possible policy interventions to improve agricultural productivity, including investment in agricultural R&D to create advanced production technology, effective extension programs and supportive policies to increase efficiency, and diversification from staple crops for sector-wide growth. The India study suggests certain policies may not be contributing much to productivity growth in the long run due to a negative impact on environment. Further studies are needed to expand the productivity analysis to take into consideration of the negative externalities to the society. Data enhancement to account for quality-adjusted inputs could improve the estimation of productivity growth.

publication date

  • 2015
  • 2015