Geog Summer Assignment- Essay Question 3 Stella Kwok (7)
Plantation agriculture is a kind of commercial arable farming in the world. It is especially important in humid tropics with luxuriant growth of vegetation. Its economic effectiveness is always emphasized, bringing both positive and negative impacts. In recent decades, crop diversification is introduced and the ecological balance of the natural environment is greatly conserved.
Plantation agriculture refers to the growing of cash crops on large foreign owned estates in countries of tropical environment. It is usually practiced in a large scale with monoculture, in which only a certain type of plant is dominant. Take Papua New Guinea as an example, in the area, cacao, coffee and rubber are mainly grown in the region for export to other countries.
Under this kind of farming, there are positive impacts to the economy. Firstly, due to its large scale of operation and being export-oriented in Papua New Guinea, the supply of products is regular and of uniformly high quality. With high demand for the products, this attracts large amount of investment of capital from the foreign countries, such as Europe and North America, thus allowing the farmers being financially able to provide the expensive machinery capable of turning out a high grade product. Benefiting from economies of scale, this enables both the transportation cost and production cost to be lowered.
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Secondly, plantations are also able to undertake greater scientific research and the eradication of pests and diseases. For example, one large sugar company in the former British colony of Guyana was able to employ a large research staff to produce a strain of sugar cane resistant to leaf-scald disease.
Besides, government assistance has brought improved crop varieties, scientific research, new pesticides and fertilizers and effective marketing, The government of Papua New Guinea launched The Cape Hoskins Oil Palm Scheme to solve land disputes of many small holdings, strengthening national self-reliance.
With increasing demand for the plantation, the employment rate of Papua New Guinea is greatly increased as there are more needs for personnel to manage crop growing and researching. Some crop processing and manufacturing industries are set up to satisfy the demand for crops. The farm productivity is increased as well. As people can earn more income from this kind of farming, this stimulates the rate of urbanization, hence the development of infrastructure and improvement of public facilities, such as roads, railways, ports, towns, schools, hospitals and the supply of electricity and water. As a result, the living standard of the labour is greatly improved.
Despite the economic benefits, plantation farming somehow brings negative impacts to Papua New Guinea.
First is the reliance upon the protected markets in Australia. At present, about one-third of the copra, 40 percent of the coffee, most of the cocoa and rubber is exported to Australia, which is assigned to admit duty free. In return, Papua New Guinea has to pay taxes for any imports. This leads to outflow of capital to foreign countries because this kind of farming is highly export-oriented.
Second is the problem of labour. Plantations require large amount of cheap labour, but the wage rate is progressively higher because of the rising living standard and commercialization of the country. This increases the cost of production and thus reduces the competitiveness among other countries for the same kind of farming.
Apart from this, the risk of crop failure is an important factor for consideration. As plantation agriculture is highly specialized. People highly rely on monoculture to earn a living. When the price of cash crops falls drastically or there is a sudden of crop failure, the income of farmers will fall as well. As a result, the earning of farmers tend to be unstable and badly affected the national income of Papua New Guinea. Besides, people have to import other necessities from other countries instead of planting within their own country, self-sufficiency cannot be achieved. In this way, there is no other source to safeguard the return of farmers.
To overcome the negative impacts, crop diversification is a good method to reduce the over-reliance on certain types of cash crops. Ecologically, this method can also be beneficial to the environment.
Since different types of crops are grown, the risk of crop failure decreases. This can stop the spread of diseases and pests for a particular type of crops. The population of pests decreases. This in turn reduces the use of pesticides. Hence, the chance of stream pollution is smaller, the sea organisms will not be poisoned or suffocated so easily, the nutrient flow can be more stable. There will be greater diversity of species of biomass, so the ecosystem will be more stable.
Furthermore, diversification of crops increases the vegetation cover. There will be less surface runoff and soil erosion, yet infiltration increases. The nutrients of the soil can be preserved. Crop diversification also reduces the exhaustion of certain type of nutrients, fertility can be maintained and thus the use of fertilizer will be less common as well.
Climatically, because of less crop failures, the amount of biomass increases. The evapotranspiration rate and wind speed can be more stable, so the microclimate can be maintained constant, the risk of global warming will not be getting serious so fast.
In conclusion, plantation of cash crops is significant in Papua New Guinea for economic development. Though crop diversification may not be as profitable as plantation agriculture, ecological environment should not be ignored. In long-term, diversification of crops is a good way to safeguard the natural environment and brings more stable income to the farmers as well.