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Quiet numbers tell district tales – rural and urban India, part 3

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A roadside stall on the outskirts of Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, selling chewing tobacco

Having dealt with one basis for comparison, the 1911 report then provided a sociological overview of the transformation of the time: “It is true that a new type of town is springing up in the neighbourhood of important railway stations with stores and provision shops and a considerable coolie population, and that these in many cases have not yet reached the prescribed standard of population. But the total number of such places is still small, and their exclusion has had no material effect on the statistics.”

Then too, the 1911 Census thought fit to remind the administration of the variety of administrative divisions in what was British India, which included Baluchistan, Burma and the subcontinent that spanned these two provinces. “There are great local variations in density. In nearly two-thirds of the districts and states the number of persons to the square mile is less than 200, and in about a quarter it ranges from 200 to 500. The units with less than 100 persons to the square mile cover two-fifths of the total area but contain only one-eleventh of the population, while those with more than 500, though their area is only one-eleventh of the whole, contain one-third of the population.”

Skyscrapers under construction in central Mumbai (Bombay). These will contain luxury apartments, in contrast to the old humble labour accommodation provided for mill workers. These enormous towers have been erected on lands once occupied by the textile mills.

One hundred years ago, an aspect of the changing demographies of British India which exercised the census officials of the time was the ratio between females and males in cities and towns. It remains a concern, a century later, although more widespread now and not confined to urban settlements, as is explained briefly anon. “As usual in Indian towns females are in marked defect,” the 1911 report remarked on Bengal. “Their proportion is highest in the minor towns which are often merely overgrown villages; it is much smaller in the main centres of trade and industry, and smallest of all in Calcutta, where only one person in three is a female.”

Nor did Bombay prove different, for the 1911 report observed: “As in the other large cities of India females are in a great minority, there being only 530 to every thousand males. This proportion is the smallest yet recorded. In 1881 it was 661; it fell to 586 at the next census owing to the immigration of males to meet the rapidly growing demand for labour, and again rose to 617 in 1901, when plague had driven out more of the temporary settlers than of the permanent residents.”

While not as severe as the ratios of that era, the gender ratios for the rural populations of districts in 2011 will, as more data is released by the Census authorities and as the verification cycles for the smaller administration units are completed, help explain the movement of labour, the patterns of migration (with which they will be read) and no doubt support the studies on the feminisation of agriculture we are witness to in India. The 2011 data show that in 122 districts, the female to male ratio of the rural population is 1 or more (the range is 1.00 to 1.18).

Children line up in an 'anganwadi', a child care centre, in a slum in northern Mumbai. Their parents scour the nearby city refuse dumps for recyclable material, and make their living selling their finds to scrap merchants.

Of the 30 districts which have the highest female to male ratios of the rural population, there are 11 in Kerala, 7 in Uttarakhand, 4 in Orissa, 2 in Maharashtra and one each in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. Thereafter, in 112 districts the female to male ratios of the rural population are less than 0.90 (the range is 0.90 to 0.67). The district with the lowest ratio is Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh), followed by Chandigarh, South Delhi, North District (Sikkim), Dibang Valley and West Kameng (both Arunachal Pradesh RP), Kargil (Jammu and Kashmir), Daman, Nicobars and Anjaw (Arunachal Pradesh).

A crowded main lane in Dharavi, the slum in central Mumbai renowned for years as being Asia's largest. A hive of small business and scrap recycling, Dharavi is a magnet for migrants to the giant city.

Carrying with it the potential to cause a demographic imbalance whose full import, a generation from today, we can only surmise is the gender ratio of the population between 0-6 years, that is, the children of these districts. There are 34 districts in which, amongst the rural population, the numbers of children between 0 and 6 years are 500,000 and above. That all these districts are in either Bihar (15) or in Uttar Pradesh (14) or West Bengal (5) is another outcome, over the decades since the early-20th century, of the population patterns observed in the final 50 years of colonial India. The 2011 data has shown that whether in the 34 districts with 0-6 year populations of 0.5 million, or in the top 10% of all districts (640), the rural population that is between 0-6 years old is about 90% of the district’s total child population in that category.

[This is the third of a small series of postings on rural and urban India, which reproduces material from my analysis of Census 2011 data on India’s rural and urban populations, published by Infochange India. See the first in the series here, and see the second in the series here.]

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World crop estimates 2011 November – more wheat, China corn, less rice

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The November data and major crop summaries from the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE, US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service) are out today. Here are the highlights:

Wheat – Global wheat supplies for 2011-12 are projected 2.6 million tons higher mostly reflecting higher production in Kazakhstan and EU-27. Kazakhstan production is raised 2.0 million tons as an extended harvest period capped off a nearly ideal growing season, confirmed by the latest government reports. EU-27 production is raised 1.2 million tons with further upward revisions for France and Spain and higher reported production in the United Kingdom and Czech Republic. Partly offsetting these increases is a 0.5-million-ton reduction for Argentina and 0.3-million-ton reductions for both Algeria and Ethiopia.

World wheat trade is raised for 2011-12 with higher expected imports for China, a number of African countries, including Morocco and Algeria, as well as for Brazil and several FSU-12 countries neighboring Kazakhstan. Partly offsetting is a reduction in projected imports for South Korea where more corn feeding is expected. Exports are raised 1.0 million tons each for EU-27 and Russia reflecting larger supplies in EU-27 and the continued heavy pace of shipments from Russia.

Global wheat consumption for 2011-12 is raised 2.4 million tons with increased feeding expected for Kazakhstan, Brazil, and Serbia. Larger crops in Kazakhstan and Serbia support more wheat feeding. Recent rains in southern Brazil have reduced wheat quality in some areas raising the potential for more feeding. Higher consumption is also expected for EU-27, Ethiopia, Kenya, and several smaller FSU-12 countries. Global ending stocks are projected 0.2 million tons higher. Rising stocks in Kazakhstan, China, and Morocco are partly offset by reductions in major exporting countries including Russia, Argentina, and EU-27.

You can get the WASDE 2011 November outlook here [pdf] and the 2011 November Excel file is here [xls]. Current and historical WASDE data are here.

Coarse grain – Global coarse grain supplies for 2011-12 are projected slightly lower with reduced U.S. corn production and lower EU-27 rye production more than offsetting higher Argentina sorghum production, higher EU-27 corn, barley, oats production, and higher Kazakhstan barley production. Corn production is lowered for a number of countries with the biggest reduction for Mexico where production is lowered 3.5 million tons. A late start to the summer rainy season and an early September freeze in parts of the southern plateau corn belt reduced yields for Mexico’s summer crop. Lower expected area for the winter crop, which will be planted in November and December, also reduces 2011-12 corn production prospects. Reservoir levels are well below those necessary to sustain a normal seasonal draw down in the northwestern corn areas which normally account for 70 to 80 percent of Mexico’s winter corn crop.

Increases in 2011-12 corn production for a number of countries partly offset reductions in Mexico, the United States, and Serbia. Corn production is raised 2.5 million tons for China with increases in both area and yields in line with the latest indications from the China National Grain and Oils Information Center. EU-27 corn production is raised 1.9 million tons mostly reflecting higher reported output in France, Romania, and Austria. Argentina production is raised 1.5 million tons with higher expected area. FSU-12 production is raised 0.7 million tons with higher reported yields in Belarus and Russia. There are also a number of production changes this month to corn and sorghum production in Sub-Saharan Africa which reduce coarse grain production for the region.

World coarse grain trade for 2011-12 is raised with increased global imports and exports of barley and corn. Barley imports are raised for Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan with exports increased for EU-27 and Russia. Corn imports are increased for China, Mexico, and South Korea. Higher expected corn exports from Argentina and EU-27 support these increases. Higher sorghum exports from Argentina offset the reduction in expected U.S. sorghum shipments. Global corn consumption is mostly unchanged with higher industrial use and feeding in China and higher corn feeding in EU-27 and South Korea offsetting reductions in Mexico and the United States. Global corn ending stocks are projected 1.6 million tons lower with reductions in EU-27, Mexico, Brazil, and the United States outweighing increases for China and Argentina.

RiceGlobal 2011-12 rice supply and use are lowered from a month ago. World 2011-12 production is forecast at a record 461.0 million tons, down 0.4 million from last month due mainly to decreases for Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, which are partially offset by an increase for China. Thailand’s 2011-12 rice crop is lowered nearly a million tons as losses in the main-season crop from recent flooding are partially offset by an expected re-planting of some of the main season crop in the Northern Region along with an expected record dry-season crop. Flooding also lowered crop prospects in Burma, Cambodia, and Laos. China’s 2011-12 crop is raised 2.0 million tons to a record 141.0 million, due to an increase in harvested area. Harvested area is increased based on recent indications from the government of China. The increase in global consumption is due mostly to an increase for China. Global exports are lowered slightly due to reductions for Burma and Cambodia, which are partially offset by increases for Argentina and Brazil. Global ending stocks for 2011-12 are projected at 100.6 million tons, down 0.8 million from last month, but an increase of 2.6 million from the previous year.

Foodgrain outlook, 2011 March – the prices effect now visible

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FAO, The Second Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and AgricultureThe World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE), the monthly forecast of the United States Department of Agriculture (Farm Service Agency, Economic Research Service, Foreign Agricultural Service) was released on 2011 March 10.

Highlights and main points for the major crop groups are:

WheatGlobal 2010-11 wheat supplies are projected 1.9 million tons higher reflecting higher production. Argentina production is raised 1.0 million tons based on higher reported yields. Australia production is raised 1.0 million tons with higher yields in Western Australia where wheat quality was not hurt by harvest rains as in the east. Other production changes include a 0.5-million-ton reduction for EU-27 with a smaller crop reported for Denmark and a 0.6-million-ton increase for Saudi Arabia on an upward revision to area.

Global wheat trade is projected lower partly reflecting reduced import prospects for a number of smaller markets as high prices trim demand. The largest import reduction, however, is for Russia where imports are lowered 1.5 million tons. Despite last year’s drought, Russia appears to be meeting its wheat needs as the government’s export ban helps maintain supplies for domestic users. With lower imports by Russia, Ukraine exports are lowered 1.5 million tons. Ukraine’s export restrictions have also disrupted trade with non-FSU countries. Exports are lowered 0.5 million tons for EU-27 on tighter supplies and the rising value of the Euro. Although exports are unchanged for the Australia October-September marketing year, exports are raised 1.0 million tons for the 2010-11 July-June international trade year increasing expected competition for U.S. wheat exports over the next few months.

FAO, The Second Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and AgricultureGlobal 2010-11 wheat consumption is projected lower with the biggest change being a 1.5-million-ton reduction in expected wheat feeding for Russia. With increased global production and reduced usage, world ending stocks for 2010-11 are projected 4.1 million tons higher.

RiceGlobal 2010-11 projections of rice production, consumption, and exports are lowered from a month ago, and ending stocks are raised. The decrease in the global production forecast, still a record at 451.5 million tons, is due entirely to a decrease in the rice crop in India, which is partially offset by increases for Argentina and Brazil. India’s rice crop is forecast at 94.5 million tons, down 500,000 tons from last month due to an expected decrease in average yield. Drier than normal weather in the eastern and northern rice growing regions is expected to lower Rabi yields. The increases in Argentina and Brazil are due to an expected increase in harvested area.

Global consumption is lowered 5.3 million tons to 447.0 million, still a record, primarily due to reductions in India (-4.0 million) and China (-0.5 million). Conversely, global ending stocks are raised 4.9 million tons to 98.8 million attributed mostly to increases for India, China, Bangladesh, and Burma. India’s 2010-11 ending stocks are raised 3.6 million tons to 21.6 million based on recently received information on government-held stocks. China’s 2010-11 ending stocks are raised nearly 1.0 million tons based on information from the Agricultural Counselor in Beijing. Global 2010-11 exports are lowered nearly 0.5 million tons, due mostly to reductions in Burma, China, and India.

FAO, The Second Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and AgricultureCoarse GrainsGlobal coarse grain supplies for 2010-11 are projected 2.5 million tons lower this month with lower corn beginning stocks and reduced corn, barley, sorghum, and oats production. Global corn beginning stocks are lowered 0.6 million tons with upward revisions to Brazil exports and India feeding in 2009-10.

Global 2010-11 corn production is reduced 0.5 million tons as lower production in Mexico and India is partially offset by higher production in Brazil. Brazil corn production for 2010-11 is raised 2.0 million tons reflecting higher reported area and yields in the summer crop and expectations for increased area for the winter crop with government planting dates extended for crop insurance and loan programs. Mexico corn production is reduced 2.0 million tons as the unusual early February freeze destroyed standing corn crops across much of the northwest winter corn region, which normally accounts for about one-fourth of the country’s total corn production. Replanting is expected to offset some of the loss, but seasonally high temperatures in the coming months limit the growing season window.

Global 2010-11 sorghum and barley production are each lowered 0.5 million tons and oats production is lowered 0.3 million tons. Lower sorghum output for India more than offsets an increase for Australia. Lower barley and oats output for Australia account for most of the reduction in world production for these coarse grains.

Global 2010-11 coarse grain imports are raised this month as increases for corn and sorghum more than offset a reduction for barley. Corn imports are raised 1.1 million tons for Mexico with the lower production outlook. Corn imports are raised 1.0 million tons for EU-27 on stronger expected feeding. A 0.5-million-ton reduction for Russia corn imports is partly offsetting. Sorghum imports are raised for EU-27 and barley imports are lowered for Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China. Increased corn feeding in EU-27 is more than offset by reductions in feeding in Russia and lower food, seed, and industrial use in India and Mexico. Projected global corn ending stocks are raised slightly.

British Bombay’s furious 1911 growth rate

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In 1911 the population of Bombay was recorded as being 979,000 and the city had recorded an astonishing growth in population, adding 203,000 inhabitants (more than 20% in the decade) from the time of the previous Census, that of 1901.

Detail of Bombay map from 'Indien: Handbuch Für Reisende', published by Verlag von Karl Baedeker in Leipzig, 1914

Detail of Bombay map from 'Indien: Handbuch Für Reisende', published by Verlag von Karl Baedeker in Leipzig, 1914

“British India contains more than 250 Districts,” explained the Imperial Gazeteer of India, 1909. “The average area of a District is 4,430 square miles, and the average population 93,000. The average District is thus about three-fourths of the size of Yorkshire, and its inhabitants number considerably more than half the population of that county. The actual Districts vary greatly in size and density of population. For instance, the Upper Chindwin District of Burma has an area of 19,000 square miles and a population of 153,000; Mymensingh, in Bengal, has an area of over 6,ooo square miles and a population of nearly 4,000,000; and Vizagapatam, in Madras, has an area of more than 17,000 square miles and a population of nearly 3,000,000. Among the major Provinces the Districts are largest in Burma and Madras, and smallest in the United Provinces.”

“Burma is about the size of Sweden, with nearly twice its population, and contains great tracts of forest and jungle. The territories administered by the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, though smaller in extent than Burma, contain more than eight times the number of inhabitants and form the most onerous of the Provincial charges. This Province nearly doubles the population of France, though only three-quarters of its size. The United Provinces of Agra and Oudh are almost as densely populated as Bengal, and contain more people than Austria-Hungary in an area less than that of Austria alone. The population of Madras and the area of Bombay approximate to the population and area of the United Kingdom.”

The Gazeteer explained in detail the role of the principal administrators, none of whom seemed more indeispensible than the District Collector: “The ordinary day’s work of the Collector-Magistrate entails many other miscellaneous duties, which vary in accordance with circumstances and of which it would be difficult to give a complete list. The Government looks to him for information on all important occurrences which take place in his District, he is called on to advise on general schemes which may be under consideration, and he is expected to explain to the people any new orders of the Government which they may not readily understand.”

“In times of stress and difficulty his duties and responsibilities are increased tenfold. If a collision is apprehended between Hindus and Muhammadans, or if an agrarian difficulty is likely to result in outrage, it is to his tact and firmness that the Government looks to prevent violence, and, if necessary, to quell disorder. Should the District be attacked by famine he is responsible for the lives of the people; he must watch minutely, and keep the Government informed of, the progress of events, and must organize and carry out measures of relief. For the proper discharge of his many duties he must be accessible to and intimately acquainted with the inhabitants. This acquaintance cannot be gained at the desk or on the bench, and accordingly the Collector-Magistrate spends several months of the year in camp. During his tours he inspects the working of the various departments with which he is concerned, satisfies himself as to the manner in which his subordinate officers are carrying out their duties, and advises and encourages them in their work. At the same time he gets to know the people of all parts of the District, and they have a ready opportunity of discussing their affairs with him. The local magnates will visit his tent with some ceremony; the village elders will come and chat with him about the prospect of their crops, the assessment of their lands, the opening of a new school, some local quarrel regarding a right of way, the dacoity which occurred in the village during the preceding summer…”

Population of Principal Towns (Census of 1911)
Population Comparison
Town Province/Agency District/State in 1911 with 1901
1. Calcutta with Suburbs and Howrah. Bengal 1,222,313 + 115,575
Calcutta and Fort Calcutta 896,067 + 48,271
Cossipore and Chitpore 24 Parganas 48,178 + 7,428
Manicktola 24 Parganas 53,767 + 21,380
Garden Reach 24 Parganas 45,275 + 17,084
Howrah Howrah 179,006 + 21,412
2. Bombay Bombay Bombay 979,445 + 203,439
3. Madras and Cantonment Madras Madras 518,660 + 9,314
4. Hyderabad and Cantonment Hyderabad Hyderabad 500,623 + 52,157
5. Rangoon and Cantonment Burma Rangoon 293,316 + 47,886
6. Lucknow and Cantonment United Provinces Lucknow 259,798 4,251
7. Delhi and Cantonment Delhi 232,837 + 24,262
8. Lahore and Cantonment Punjab Lahore 228,687 + 25,723
9. Ahmedabad and Cantonment Bombay Ahmedabad 216,777 + 30,888
10. Benares and Cantonment United Provinces Benares 203,804 9,275
11. Agra and Cantonment United Provinces Agra 185,449 2,573
12. Cawnpore and Cantonment United Provinces Cawnpore 178,557 24,240
13. Allahabad and Cantonment United Provinces Allahabad 171,697 335
14. Poona and Cantonment Bombay Poona 158,856 + 5,536
15. Amritsar and Cantonment Punjab Amritsar 152,756 9,673
16. Karachi and Cantonment Bombay Karachi 151,903 + 35,240
17. Mandalay and Cantonment Burma Mandalay 138,299 45,517
18. Jaipur Rajputana Jaipur 137,098 23,069
19. Patna Bihar and Orissa Patna 136,153 + 1,368
20. Madura Madras Madura 134,130 + 28,146

ncipal Towns (Census of 1911)

Population Comparison
Town Province/Agency District/State in 1911 with 1901
1. Calcutta with Suburbs and Howrah. Bengal 1,222,313 + 115,575
Calcutta and Fort Calcutta 896,067 + 48,271
Cossipore and Chitpore 24 Parganas 48,178 + 7,428
Manicktola 24 Parganas 53,767 + 21,380
Garden Reach 24 Parganas 45,275 + 17,084
Howrah Howrah 179,006 + 21,412
2. Bombay Bombay Bombay 979,445 + 203,439
3. Madras and Cantonment Madras Madras 518,660 + 9,314
4. Hyderabad and Cantonment Hyderabad Hyderabad 500,623 + 52,157
5. Rangoon and Cantonment Burma Rangoon 293,316 + 47,886
6. Lucknow and Cantonment United Provinces Lucknow 259,798 4,251
7. Delhi and Cantonment Delhi 232,837 + 24,262
8. Lahore and Cantonment Punjab Lahore 228,687 + 25,723
9. Ahmedabad and Cantonment Bombay Ahmedabad 216,777 + 30,888
10. Benares and Cantonment United Provinces Benares 203,804 9,275
11. Agra and Cantonment United Provinces Agra 185,449 2,573
12. Cawnpore and Cantonment United Provinces Cawnpore 178,557 24,240
13. Allahabad and Cantonment United Provinces Allahabad 171,697 335
14. Poona and Cantonment Bombay Poona 158,856 + 5,536
15. Amritsar and Cantonment Punjab Amritsar 152,756 9,673
16. Karachi and Cantonment Bombay Karachi 151,903 + 35,240
17. Mandalay and Cantonment Burma Mandalay 138,299 45,517
18. Jaipur Rajputana Jaipur 137,098 23,069
19. Patna Bihar and Orissa Patna 136,153 + 1,368
20. Madura Madras Madura 134,130 + 28,146

Written by makanaka

August 2, 2010 at 13:16

Asia’s food-oil-inflation roller-coaster

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These people are already hit by the food price rise

In South-East Asia the price of Thai fragrant rice has surged by 26 per cent since 01 Nov 2009, thanks to storms in the Philippines and drought in southern China. At these levels, physical hoarding is seen taking place among Thai rice exporters, which means they probably have expectations that rice prices will go up even higher. And it is not just rice. Soya beans and edible oils like palm oil are also seeing a rise in prices, which in turn may make livestock more expensive since these crops go into animal feed.

Food prices are also rising in China – prices of vegetables shot up by as much as 10 per cent since 01 January 2010 as extreme cold weather damaged crops and transportation problems hampered delivery. Oil prices have been rallying in line with the global recovery, hitting levels above US$83 a barrel earlier this week, near a 15-month high. Food prices are also rebounding from their 2009 lows, potentially increasing price pressures in Asian countries that are already seeing asset bubbles build up.

Vegetable vendor

There’s already evidence from Kerala that the combination of food price rise specifically and inflation generally is hurting:

“The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (Nafed) will join hands with the State government to implement an ‘Easy Market’ scheme to provide solace to consumers in the event of spiralling prices of essential commodities. The Union government has approved a subsidy of around Rs.600 crore [Rs 6 billion = US$ 133.34 million, Jan 2010] to provide ‘Easy Market’ kits containing 20 items of daily use to consumers at a discount ranging between 30 and 40 per cent. In Kerala, Nafed will use the Triveni and Neethi chain of stores to implement the scheme.
The scheme had been approved by a Cabinet sub-committee and 60 million kits would be distributed in the first phase. These kits contain rice, wheat, whole wheat flour, pulses, sugar, edible oil, etc, he said. Nafed would procure wheat and rice from the Food Corporation of India and distribute them at reasonable rates. Wheat flour would also be distributed similarly.”
Read more here.

Vegetable vendor

But elsewhere in India’s government mindspace, the ‘spend more’ school of thought is dreaming up still more schemes that have to do with food:

“Speaking at the National Retail Summit 2010 “Modern Retail: Towards Sustainable Growth and Profitability” Subodh Kant Sahai, Minister for Food Processing Industry, said that the Union Government is coming out with a series of initiatives to “increase the share of modern retail”. Sahai stated that the centre has planned to upgrade 70 cities in India by 2012 having all the modern facilities that of metros like Mumbai and Delhi. “With the amendment of the Agriculture Produce Market Act or the APMC act, farmers would become the largest beneficiaries. With 70 percent of our population also dependent on agriculture this would also get in 3rd party investors interested in Retail to patronize the farmers,” he said. According to Mr Sahai growth of the food processing industry is directly linked to the growth in retail industry.” Read more here.

Vegetable vendor

It’s typical that India’s administrators, planners, policymakers and legislators don’t bother to look around at the conditions of our fellow Southasians:

“Burma had been the world’s largest exporter of rice as recently as the 1930s, but rice exports fell by two thirds in the 1940s, with the country never again reclaiming its dominant status in the internatinal rice trade. Thailand and Vietnam now lead the world in rice exports. For fiscal year 1938/39, rice accounted for nearly 47 percent of Burma’s export receipts. However, by 2007/08 the corresponding figure had sunk to less than two percent. Dr. U Myint [an economist] said the reintegration of the rice industry into the world market would provide incentives to increase both the quantity and quality of rice and thereby lead to higher incomes and employment opportunities for the rural population, who constitute 65 percent of the population of 58 million. An estimated 31 million acres of land is cultivated in Burma, of which more than 16 million acres are devoted to rice.” Read more here.

Commodity chains took powerful shape in the steam age to give a large number of local products geographically expansive identities. Opium, jute, and indigo are prime examples of nineteenth century Bengal farm products generated by world markets where the ups and downs of prices impinged sharply on local experience in some locales but not others.

Tippoo's Dominions, 1794

“By 1900, commodity production defined South Asia as a region of the world economy, defined regions in South Asia, and defined localities in regions. Ceylon, Malaysia, Assam, Fiji and Mauritius were for plantations. Ceylon first produced coffee; then tea, rubber, cocoanut, and cinchona. Assam was tea country. Ceylon and Assam replaced China as top suppliers of English tea. Fiji and Mauritius meant sugar plantations. Labour supplies posed the major constraint for plantation capitalists who found the solution in eventually permanent indentured labour migration from labour export specialty areas in Bihar, Bengal, and southern Tamil districts.”

“Sites of commodity production demanded more commodities. Circuits of moving commodities linked commodity producers and consumers to one another in spaces that surpass the spatial imagination of national history. Modern Indian history has circulated in the space/time of capitalism, in the manner of globalization today, for over a century. Far-flung plantations in Malaysia, Fiji, Mauritius and the West Indies, as well as cities and farms in Burma and Africa developed circuits of commodity production and capital accumulation anchored in India. Tamil Chettiyars became local financiers on the rice frontier in Burma’s Irrawaddy River delta, which generated huge exports of rice for world consumers, including Indian cities that needed Burma rice so much that when Japan’s conquest of Burma cut rice exports, it precipitated the 1943-4 Bengal famine. In 1930, Indians composed almost half Rangoon’s population. In East and South Africa, Gujarati merchants and workers arriving from Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras provided labour and capital for railways and import-export dependent urbanism. The Indian diaspora was well underway a century ago: between 1896 and 1928, seventy-five percent of emigrants from Indian ports went to Ceylon and Malaya; ten percent, to Africa; nine percent, to the Caribbean; and the remaining six percent, to Fiji and Mauritius.”

From ‘Agricultural Production, South Asian History, and Development Studies’, edited by David Ludden, Oxford University Press, September 2004