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The cash crop versus food crop debate

Published by:
Publication date
Type of Publication:
Working Papers & Briefs
Focus Region:
Focus Topic:
Agricultural Value Chains / Agri-Businesses
Market / Trade
Type of Risk:
Type of Risk Managment Option:
Risk assessment
Poulton, C.; Al-Hassan, R.; Cadisch, G.; Reddy, C.; Smith, L.

This paper revisits the debate on the promotion of cash and food crops in the light of recent developments in agricultural markets and the current interest in sustainable livelihoods. Given this latter context, it focuses on the meso and micro, rather than macro, strands in the debate and also on cash crop production by smallholders, although this could include participation in outgrower or contract farming schemes linked to a nucleus estate. Large-scale production of cash crops, whilst good for generating foreign exchange and/or keeping food prices low, is unlikely to make many contributions to rural poverty reduction, except possibly in remote, land-abundant areas where there is little other economic activity and where a large scale of operations is necessary to encourage market linkages and to justify investments in supporting infrastructure. In more accessible areas, competition for land between commercial and smallholder producers may exacerbate rural poverty.