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Essays on irrigation development, farm production and unaccounted costs : theory and empirical evidence

Athukorala, P.P.A. Wasantha (2010) Essays on irrigation development, farm production and unaccounted costs : theory and empirical evidence. .


A review of the literature related to issues involved in irrigation induced agricultural development (IIAD) reveals that: (1) the magnitude, sensitivity and distribution of social welfare of IIAD is not fully analysed; (2) the impacts of excessive pesticide use on farmers’ health are not adequately explained; (3) no analysis estimates the relationship between farm level efficiency and overuse of agro-chemical inputs under imperfect markets; and (4) the method of incorporating groundwater extraction costs is misleading. This PhD thesis investigates these issues by using primary data, along with secondary data from Sri Lanka. The overall findings of the thesis can be summarised as follows. First, the thesis demonstrates that Sri Lanka has gained a positive welfare change as a result of introducing new irrigation technology. The change in the consumer surplus is Rs.48,236 million, while the change in the producer surplus is Rs. 14,274 millions between 1970 and 2006. The results also show that the long run benefits and costs of IIAD depend critically on the magnitude of the expansion of the irrigated area, as well as the competition faced by traditional farmers (agricultural crowding out effects). The traditional sector’s ability to compete with the modern sector depends on productivity improvements, reducing production costs and future structural changes (spillover effects). Second, the thesis findings on pesticides used for agriculture show that, on average, a farmer incurs a cost of approximately Rs. 590 to 800 per month during a typical cultivation period due to exposure to pesticides. It is shown that the value of average loss in earnings per farmer for the ‘hospitalised’ sample is Rs. 475 per month, while it is approximately Rs. 345 per month for the ‘general’ farmers group during a typical cultivation season. However, the average willingness to pay (WTP) to avoid exposure to pesticides is approximately Rs. 950 and Rs. 620 for ‘hospitalised’ and ‘general’ farmers’ samples respectively. The estimated percentage contribution for WTP due to health costs, lost earnings, mitigating expenditure, and disutility are 29, 50, 5 and 16 per cent respectively for hospitalised farmers, while they are 32, 55, 8 and 5 per cent respectively for ‘general’ farmers. It is also shown that given market imperfections for most agricultural inputs, farmers are overusing pesticides with the expectation of higher future returns. This has led to an increase in inefficiency in farming practices which is not understood by the farmers. Third, it is found that various groundwater depletion studies in the economics literature have provided misleading optimal water extraction quantity levels. This is due to a failure to incorporate all production costs in the relevant models. It is only by incorporating quality changes to quantity deterioration, that it is possible to derive socially optimal levels. Empirical results clearly show that the benefits per hectare per month considering both the avoidance costs of deepening agro-wells by five feet from the existing average, as well as the avoidance costs of maintaining the water salinity level at 1.8 (mmhos/Cm), is approximately Rs. 4,350 for farmers in the Anuradhapura district and Rs. 5,600 for farmers in the Matale district.

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ID Code: 40955
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Wilson, Clevo& Robinson, Timothy
Keywords: irrigation, farm production
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Economics & Finance
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 25 Mar 2011 14:43
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2011 06:01

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