By Dr J Floor Anthoni (2000)
Agricultural land, the land that feeds the
world, is in serious difficulty and it is not at all certain that it will
be able to produce enough food for the world's population, in perpetuity.
Confusion reigns about what sustainability is, but in this chapter we'll
define some basic rules that will help people to understand it and to better
manage their land. What is energy efficiency on the farm and is it important?
Is the economy of farming of influence on sustainability? What can we expect
of permaculture and organic farming? Does farm ownership affect sustainability?
What difficulties do farmers face compared to other businesses? What can
we do towards soil sustainability?
"Farmers, fisherman and hunters are by
nature conservationists but today they have been unfairly maligned by a
powerful but ignorant urban minority which controls the environmentalist
agenda"- Walter Starck, 2005
please note that this document consists of two parts, part1
and part2 (this page)
Our means of food production should not only
be maximal when the world's population peaks but more than adequate for
thousands of years to come. An enormous confusion reigns about what sustainability
entails, but in this chapter we'll boldly define the natural laws that
In order to earn its keep, farming must be economic.
Income must exceed expenditure. Many improvements have been made as a result
of new knowledge in the 'green revolution' and these improvements will
continue. But the soil does not need to be compromised.
In the days when humans were roaming around in family groups, hunting and
gathering their food, they would always find more food than needed, so
that their energy expenditure was covered. In good times there was more
time left for playing and socialising, whereas in the bad times they had
to cover larger distances. In really bad times, they would spend more energy
in searching than the food provided and people would starve and die.
When farming began, humans discovered that they needed to spend less
energy for finding (growing) more food. In those times, all labour was
human toil. Communities developed. In really bad times, when it took more
energy to farm, than the food contained, communities had to pack up and
move on, or die. They often did both. Up until the start of the industrial
revolution, humans needed to farm in an energy-efficient way in order to
survive, but fossil fuel changed all that. Fossil fuel has been so cheap
and convenient that it immediately replaced human labour and draught animals.
It was used to transport produce far across the world and to travel far
out to sea to catch fish. It is often quoted that the loaf of bread you
buy today, cost six times more energy to bring it to the supermarket than
you will gain from it as food, and this does not include the solar energy
that went into it and the heat needed for baking. The following table gives
energy balances for three types of farming the same crop of corn. It shows
that the energy efficiency of cropping has eroded because of the use of
fossil fuel, but the energy efficiency of human labour improved dramatically.
and energy inputs and outputs per hectare for corn production
Mexico, human labour
ins & outs
axe & hoe kcal
yield DM kg
Mexico, using oxen
ins & outs
ox hours h
ox food kg
ox hay kg
yield DM kg
ins & outs
K potash kg
Ca lime kg
corn seeds kg
Source: Pimentel and assoc.
Note that these estimates are subject to large variations from place to
The basic idea behind farming is that we harvest the energy from the
sun to feed ourselves. The sun's energy is free but we have to do some
work to obtain the fruits of our labour. For human labour farming (left
column), the gain in energy from the crops was nearly 13 times the energy
put in. Using draught animals (middle column), this reduced to 6.3 but
four times less labour was needed. In modern farming the grain provides
only three times the amount of energy that was expended from fossil fuel
but labour was another 7 times less. The energy 'subsidy' in this case
is 30%. We don't realise how much our various foods are 'subsidised' by
fossil fuel energy like in the third column above. The table below shows
the magnitude of energy subsidies for various food crops. Those exceeding
20% should give cause for concern.
subsidies for various food crops
energy food crop
protein food crop
Hunting and gathering
Wet rice padis
Intensive rice (USA, Japan)
Intensive wheat, USA
Low intensity corn
Potatoes, peanuts, soy beans
Source: J S Steinhart: Energy
use in the US food system, Science 184, April 19, 1974
What the table shows is that energy foods are still energy-efficient
but protein foods are marginally so. Humans have always valued protein
foods higher than grains and beans and didn't mind spending more energy
to obtain these.
Please note that in none of the calculations and measurements of energy
efficiency, account is taken of down-slope effects, the cost of polluting
soil, rivers and the ocean. If energy were to be used to clean these up,
all world cropping would indeed turn out to be both energy inefficient
If farming were to supply all energy needs for humans, which could be
the situation when all fossil fuels have run out, while nuclear power remains
unacceptable, then the amount of soil needed would require two more world
planets at today's population levels and consumption rates. By the time
Earth's population stabilises, another 4 worlds would be needed! This illustrates
humans' dependence on fossil fuel. The human 'ecological footprint', the
amount of land needed to sustain one person, is estimated at 4.3 ha/person
(at Canada's living standard) but only 1.5 ha of productive land are available
per person, if the world is shared fairly. The following table may illustrate
that the world is not shared fairly at present (Source: M
Wackernagel, Our ecological footprint. 1998.):
consumption per capita,
CO2 emission t/yr
purchasing power (US$)
vehicles per 100 persons
paper consumption kg/yr
fossil energy use GJ/yr
fresh water use m3/yr
ecological footprint ha/person
A human footprint would typically allocate 55% for energy cropping,
5% for roading and housing, 15% for food cropping, 11% for pasture, 14%
for forest products.
For farming to survive, it must be economic. Income must exceed costs.
Farming is a business that needs to make a profit, including a living for
the farmer's family. If income does not meet costs, farmers can survive
only by taking shortcuts on expenditure such as deferring the application
of fertiliser and postponing maintenance and by living frugally, but eventually
these savings affect productivity and income. It is a downward spiral that
includes deterioration of the land, which affects society. It is thus important
that farming remains profitable.
Let's look at the major improvements
that have been made to farming in the past 100 years (and
some concerns). Each point needs more discussion but it is assumed
that the reader is familiar with the issues.
less work: mechanisation of labour by the use of tractors, harvesters,
pumps, water reticulation and more. The use of fossil fuel now plays an
important part. But it has caused people to leave
the country in favour of the cities, making it more difficult and unpleasant
to live on the land.
faster transport: produce is now transported to its destinations
much faster than before because of better roads, larger trucks, air planes
and mechanised loading and unloading of ships. Produce can now be delivered
fresher. But recycling of wastes has become uneconomical.
refrigeration: refrigeration has made the transport possible of
fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. It has shortened the path from
farm gate to customer considerably. Refrigeration has also made possible
to store fresh farm products for long periods in frozen condition. The
ability to store food, levels its seasonality. But
those in control of freezing stores, could often make higher profits than
the farmers. Although food could be delivered to the other end of the world
where the seasons are opposite, the reverse happened too, intensifying
artificial fertiliser: nitrogen fertiliser has now become available
in large quantities and low costs because of the industrial Haber-Bosch
nitrogen fixation process. The low cost of fossil fuel has made this fertiliser
affordable even for low-income countries. But the
temptation is high to apply it to excess. Increased yields are possible
at concentrations that are damaging to soil and environment.
scientific knowledge: better understanding of farm processes, improved
food for animals, improved health, better targeting of costs and much more.
farmers now depend on expensive and patented sources of seeds and artificial
insemination and more.
chemical pest control: the availability of very effective herbicides,
fungicides and pesticides, has made a major difference to farming, reducing
labour costs, increasing yield while reducing the risk of crop failure.
these chemicals were often used to excess, in order to improve the look
of the product. They ended up in waterways, aquifers and the sea, affecting
natural ecosystems in the process.
higher yield varieties: crop varieties have been improved steadily
for higher yield. But seeds are no longer free and
high yield varieties need more food in the form of fertiliser and water.
It also reduces the biological diversity in crop species.
shorter season: crop varieties have been improved to ripen earlier
so that they can be planted in colder climates with shorter summers.
doublecropping: several modern crop varieties allow two crops in
one growing season. But often the soil degrades much
more quickly this way.
synchronised ripening: modern crop varieties now ripen such that
the entire crop can be harvested in one operation.
earlier/later ripening: to provide competitive advantage and to
lengthen the season of availability, crop varieties are continually being
bred to ripen earlier or later in the season.
pest resistance: many crop varieties now have been bred with resistance
to common diseases. It reduces the amount of chemical pest control and
increases yield, while reducing the risk of crop failure. But
such properties may, over time, migrate to the pest species, making them
antibiotics and hormones: to improve health and production of farm
animals. But human endocrine systems are sufficiently
similar to the animals they eat, to be affected by these medications.
improved pollination: the knowledge of bees has improved pollination
and the quality of the fruit.
better keeping: varieties have been bred to improve their keeping
ability, being less sensitive to rot and physical damage. But
these improvements were often made at the expense of tastinesss.
better quality: the size, colour, look, taste and other qualities
are continually being improved. Indeed, the farm products of a hundred
years ago would look very poor, compared to those available today.
often the look of the produce is more important than its nutritional value
hybrid species: new hybrids (cross between two species) appear regularly
to add to the existing variety, often combining the good qualities of two
species, while reducing their less desirable qualities.
Progress in farming has been so enormous that farming profits must now
reach astronomical heights. But they don't. Farmers everywhere are still
teetering on the brink of the narrow margin between profit and loss, risking
their soils in the process. Why?
It is caused by competition in a freemarket economic system. Farmers
compete in an open market where demand and supply govern prices (theoretically).
In case of shortage, prices go up and reversely, in case of overproduction,
prices slump. Through economic oscillations, farmers will eventually produce
precisely what is demanded, no more, no less. The market stabilises.
The freemarket system exerts a relentless pressure to produce more
efficiently, to make more with less. Much of the world's progress in trade
and industry is driven by this freemarket 'invisible hand' which makes
people produce what others want, not by decree or planning or foresight,
but by the simple desire to make money. It is an excellent system of delivering
the cheapest product to the most people. But it has a number of serious
shortcomings, which will be treated in a separate section on this web site.
Farmers face a number of freemarket
vagaries of weather and climate: the difference in production between
one year and the next is unpredictable, so farmers do not have sufficient
control over their production, not like a factory of TV sets. Very few
businesses have this kind of exposure to risk. The freemarket system has
no sympathy for this and farmers must compete with others for products
independence: farmers are highly independent operators, partly because
of their isolation but perhaps more so because they all compete against
each other. One man's profit is another man's loss. This drives prices
down. Suppliers benefit from each farmer buying his own implements rather
than sharing farm machinery between neighbouring farms.
small holdings: through continuous improvements in productivity,
and increased mechanisation, traditional farm sizes have become too small
for modern operations. The process of amalgamation of adjoining farms is
difficult and slow, and depends on individual initiative. The jump from
one unit to two is often too large to be justified economically. No government
programmes are in place to assist this process.
large investment: farm prices are continually driven up because
of the large difference between urban land suitable for housing and farm
land suitable for farming. People buy farms for 'lifestyle' living, for
very high prices. Land does not have a price that is related to its agricultural
productivity because any land can be converted to a housing estate. As
a consequence, farmers need to fork out a large sum of equity, which is
often not justifiable from the level of production. It is true that the
money comes back after selling up, but in the meantime returns on investment
are low and capital repayments high. Farmers would not be able to borrow
money from the sharemarket because they would not be able to compete with
the dividends that other industries are able to pay from their much larger
returns on investment.
overproduction: because of their low profit margins, farmers are
constantly pushed to overexploit their land, resulting in high risk of
soil degradation and loss, and down-hill ecological effects.
limits to growth: unlike industrialists and global corporations
who are basing their existence on the unlimited growth of capital, farmers
are physically limited by the size and limitations of their land. They
cannot expand their production facilities to meet demand, like a manufacturing
industry can. As a consequence, the pressure on producing more from the
same land, is high.
foreign sourcing: farmers cannot uplift their production to a foreign
country with cheap labour, as most industries can. So they have to compete
with their own high labour costs.
low international trade volume: the volume of human food traded
internationally is very low compared to total world production. The amount
of excess food is traded on the international market, causing enormous
fluctuations in price. An agricultural country like New Zealand, depending
mainly on international trade of its agricultural products, is very much
affected by the vagaries of this market.
poor negotiating position: farmers are in a poor position to negotiate
a good price for their produce because nature and markets are in control.
The crop ripens and needs harvesting. Most produce cannot be stored on
the farm, and must be sold when harvested. At the same time, the produce
of all competitors reaches the market. A price glut occurs. Farmers cannot
withhold their produce or their labour in order to manipulate price, but
the middleman can. Those who are able to store the produce, have the power
to withhold it from the market, thus driving prices up. Here is where the
profits are made.
remote living: many farmers live in remote places, incurring high
costs for supplies, fertiliser, shopping, mailing, banking, education and
the like, while not being able to enjoy the achievements of culture as
is possible in large cities. As farm labour was made redundant by increased
mechanisation, people left for the cities, attracted by jobs and higher
wages. It has depressed local farming communities. In a freemarket system,
resources are drawn towards a gravitational centre, by economic forces
not unlike gravitation itself. Money attracts money. If this is left unchecked,
farming communities everywhere are left behind without the necessary infrastructure,
leading to poor living conditions, reduced profits and ultimately threatening
the health of the land.
The reason of discussing the economic reality surrounding farming is to
show that the problem of overexploitation cannot be solved on the land
alone. Other measures must be taken to relieve the economic drive for overexploitation.
Although subjected to relentless market pressure, farmers have somehow
been spared the ravages of the global economy:
farmers own their means of production: contrary to those working
on the factory floor, farmers own their means of production (the land).
They are their own bosses and cannot be hired and fired at short notice,
but they can do so to paid farm labour.
land cannot be exported: the global developments of the past twenty
years have seen capital and jobs flow to undeveloped nations with very
low wages, taxes, social security and environmental protection. It is here
that unfettered capitalism makes its scandalous profits from overexploiting
human workers. With wages as low as $40 per month in China, a pair of shoes
can be produced for US$5, to be sold for US$80 in developed countries.
The reason this modern capitalism became possible, is through the free
flow of capital and trade and by social injustice. The means of production
(the factory) can now be exported, and with it the jobs, but not the people,
who are left behind without their jobs. Farmers are fortunate that their
means of production (the land) cannot be exported, so that they are spared
some of the ravages caused by the new global capitalism. But competition
with low-wage economies remains real.
Land ownership is another issue relating to soil sustainability. Land is
a very strange article, compared to all others we know. It cannot be transported
or shifted. It has no life span, because in thousands of years it will
still be there. It can be passed from generation to generation without
necessarily wearing out. It can increase in value, rather than wearing
out like a car does. It produces from the rain and sun, without the need
of putting anything in. It is the substance that a nation identifies with
and calls it 'home', for what would be left of a nation if all its land
was owned by overseas interests?
Most of the land is privately owned, although in some countries it is
owned by the Government or by the nobility, who lease it out. In some places,
the land is shared as a commons, without an owner. These three forms of
ownership do make a difference to how the land is managed.
a commons: (commons = provisions shared in common) Where land is
shared but not owned, such as rangelands for grazing, herders are pressured
by competing with other herders. As a result, each will graze it to his
maximum ability, resulting in overgrazing and degradation of the land.
Something similar happened in the oceans.
leasing: the land is leased from a property owner or the government.
The land is farmed for profit and because land degradation happens very
slowly, temptation exists not to maintain it well and to overexploit it.
private ownership: The land is bought and sold. Farmers farm
it for profit and sell it for profit. So they should be interested in maintaining
soil quality, tracks and fences. But often, during the lifetime of one
owner (20-30 years), the amount of soil degradation may not be very noticeable.
All farmers should be aware that they are really borrowing the land from
their children. We all die but the land remains. In our short existence
on Earth, we should take care of our lands such that we can give it to
our children in a better state. It is obvious that society at large should
be interested in these matters and that some government controls and assistance
Permaculture and organic farming
The movement towards sustainable farming is spearheaded by those proclaiming
permaculture, meaning permanent culture. The life span of productive soil
must not be measured in centuries or even millennia; it must be forever.
Australian Bill Mollison formulated the ideas behind permaculture in 1975.
Permaculture strives for agriculture that is
ecologically sound and sustainable in the long term. This means that it
should be non-polluting, economically and socially viable, and provide
for its own needs. Permaculture uses the natural qualities of plants and
animals, combined with the natural characteristics of landscapes and structures,
to produce a life-supporting system for city and country, using the smallest
area possible. Permaculture is essentially a way of achieving efficient
and sustainable food production. The sustainability of our culture is fundamentally
dependent on our relationship to the land.
Permaculturalists essentially wish to turn the clock back a little and
pay more attention to nutrient cycling. They really like the health of
soil to be more important than profits. They like to bring into practice
what this section on soil is all about, but they have to compete with those
farmers who don't. In the end, short-term success is dictated in the freemarket
by price. So they need a little help.
The help these farmers need, is just to break the dictates of the freemarket
system, where only price rules. It is a trap that many good farmers wish
to escape from. Somehow the fact that the environment and the land are
better off, needs to be appreciated. Here are some ideas:
tax breaks: Governments can encourage permaculture by allowing tax
breaks for typical costs of establishment, compliance costs and so on.
certification: Permafarms can be certified so that bulk buyers have
a guarantee of origin. Such is done already for organic farms.
labelling: Permaproduce can be labelled so that end buyers can make
a decision in favour of the environment. In this manner, end buyers can
'subsidise' good agricultural practice.
Perhaps unfortunately, the followers of permaculture focus on small-scale
intensive systems of self-sufficiency, supporting alternative lifestyles
(private productive ecosystems in which to live). They talk about extremely
diversified farmlets or gardens with both plants and animals that work
together, about edible gardens, about ponds with multiple functions. Such
farmlets are very labour-intensive, but when properly planned and designed
to 'let nature do it', the toil can become less. Nutrient cycling, water
harvesting and wind power generation assure that such farms do not depend
on fossil fuel and can last forever.
Please note that the inability of recycling wastes because produce
is transported far away, is not addressed.
Organic farming The practices of organic farming are based on the ideas behind permaculture,
enforced by a strong belief that everything 'chemical' is therefore bad
for human health and the environment. Organic farming therefore shuns both
synthetic fertilisers and biocides. It also bans food irradiation and genetic
modification. Organic produce is sold to a growing population of health-conscious
people who share this belief. They are also prepared to pay a much higher
price and don't mind a few natural 'freckles' on organic fruits. This makes
an enormous difference to the amount of chemical pest control needed. In
fact, organic farms use only 'natural' biocides. The organics movement
is well organised and organic farms are not only certified, but also verified
regularly. One could say that the viability of organics begins with the
However, there are problems with any system that is based on beliefs
rather than knowledge, reason and logic. To claim that a chemical substance
made naturally differs from one made synthetically, is just absurd. Plants
certainly do not make this distinction . But to minimise the use of
pesticides and herbicides is commendable. In the chapter on economy, we've
shown the many improvements that happened to farming because of science
and technology, and organic farming benefits equally from these (is not
chemical), being able to produce more from less land. Organic farmers also
see no harm in using copious amounts of fossil fuel (is not chemical),
like other farmers do, and they do not mind ploughing the land either (is
Where organic farming fails to feed the world, is summarised here:
less productive: Organic farming is destined to be less productive
because it relies on natural fertility from weathering. By not using fertilisers,
at least 50% productivity is not achieved. But when permacultural practices
as outlined above are followed (these are not part of the organics dogma),
the soils may stay healthier, while retaining their fertility.
lost fertility: By not applying the nutrients in shortest supply
from the bedrock, the fertility of the soil ends up at its lowest productive
(natural) capacity. A little amount of fertiliser in the concentrations
of nutrients in shortest supply, can raise the soil's 'natural' fertility
considerably over the long term. Note also that the nutrients exported
inside the produce are not replaced.
high cost: Organic farming is more labour intensive and produces
poor produce: The quality of organic produce is often compromised
unnecessarily, resulting in short shelf life and difficulties storing the
produce. Moulds on fruit skins can also be less healthy (carcinogenic)
than traces of fungicides.
unsustainable: Organic farming does not address the sustainability
issues discussed in this section. An organic farm can be perfectly certified,
while not sustainable in the long run.
Organic farming is probably here to stay, supported by its devotees of
health culture ('You are what you eat'), but won't be a panacea (cure-all,
universal remedy) for feeding the world. Read more about organics in the
USA's National Organic Programme
 Note that many confuse the taste of organic produce
for their quality. Modern cropping, particularly in glasshouses creates
an environment in which plants can grow excessively, resulting in bland
tasting produce. Had such vegetables been produced in the open, they would
have grown more slowly while accumulating more 'taste'. But this has nothing
to do with either sustainability or organics.
What can we do?
From the previous chapters, we have learnt that soil is not only an indispensable
substance for the survival of mankind, but also that we are losing it rapidly.
This is not a new phenomenon, as in past history it simply caused civilisations
to collapse, not because nobody saw it coming, but because nobody was able
to do something about it. Today's civilisation, with all its scientific
knowledge, appears to have landed in the same predicament. So, what can
The problem is not new, and everywhere in the world people are trying
to do something about it. The problem is not small either, since it effectively
concerns all soil modified by humans. There are no standard solutions,
since every type of soil and every climate and every way of using it, creates
vastly different circumstances. How then can we pretend to offer the solution
to all problems? Well, we can't. But somehow people have underestimated
the importance of cycling and retaining nutrients, mainly because of underestimating
the importance of the soil biota. Here is where soil fertility is made
and retained. If farmers become more aware that they are farming soil,
rather than produce, we may head in the right direction. But there are
many areas where helpful improvements can be made.
The following actions may help
to improve sustainability:
soil farming: Putting the sustainability principles discussed before,
in place. Each situation is different, but the principles remain the same.
By knowing these, farmers should be able to improve soil fertility in a
sustainable way. In many, often inexpensive ways, farmers and gardeners
can reduce soil erosion considerably.
roading: major improvements can be made to the amount of erosion
from roading and roadside maintenance.
research: Practical research into local soil types and properties,
farming systems, sustainability, reduced use of fertilisers and biocides,
water resources and more. Research helps a nation to retain and widen its
natural advantage. But results must be made available freely and dispersed
monitoring: Both erosion and soil fertility should be monitored
by taking actual samples. Since all damage to the land ends up in the sea,
monitoring sea water is the most sensible thing to do. Coastal ecosystems
are stressed world-wide, and major restrictions on farming must result,
in order to save the sea.
fertilisers: Fertilisers are needed in many ways: to improve crop
yields, to prevent and reduce erosion, to improve the soil. When used with
care, they are a formidable weapon for achieving sustainability.
society's involvement: The health of its soils is of critical importance
to society, so it should help to preserve its most precious asset, by:
educating: Educating everyone involved with soil, from home gardener
to kibbutz, from poor to rich, about the essence of soil, how it works
and what it needs. This web site aims to do so, but no public funding was
possible. TV programmes for farmers should be encouraged and funded.
care groups: The movement towards sustainability is helped by establishing
care groups for land, rivers, lakes, estuaries and coasts. A lot of work
needs to be done by a lot of people. People need to organise themselves
in order to make information transfer affordable, to get things done and
to help each other. Funding of these care groups appears to be a good investment.
advice: Making agricultural advice affordable and widely available,
so that farmers learn to do things right and that they can continue learning
soil testing: Making soil testing affordable and widely available,
so that property owners can make informed decisions about how to manage
erosion testing: Soils should not only be tested for erosion but
also for degradation and fertility. Farmers can be advised of the risks
of their methods on the type of soil they have.
water use: A central database should be kept of the capacities of
natural lakes, groundwater and aquifers and the amounts of water extracted
fertilisers: Fertilisers should be subsidised for remote areas,
marginal farms, hill country and for supervised soil improvement projects.
marketing: Society should oversee agricultural markets so that farmers
do not become marginalised while profits go to middlemen and importers.
The international trade in farm products is rather temperamental and societies
that depend largely on the benefits of agricultural exports, should make
efforts to shield their farmers from excessive trading risks. Farmers are
financing: Farmers face high capital costs with low returns, a situation
shunned by capital financing. Society should make special arrangements
for farm finance.
tax breaks: While not encouraging tax evasion, society should make
tax breaks available to encourage farmers to put environmental measures
in place, and to improve the land.
insurance: The natural risks that farmers face, from harsh climate
extremes, global warming, acid rain and more, are not normal business risks
and society should be prepared to cover these.
purchasing land: Society can purchase abandoned or unproductive
land, so that it can be reforested and made productive for natural ecosystems.
infrastructure: The loss of people from agricultural regions, is
worrying. Attracted by the lure of jobs and earnings, the countryside loses
its people and infrastructure. Society should give incentives to counteract
this gravitational force.
redistribution: Governments can help to redistribute land to accommodate
larger but fewer holdings as farming becomes more efficient, while also
foreign ownership: People must think carefully about what it would
mean if all the land was owned by foreigners. Would this still be their
country? Obviously some rules about ownership are necessary.
biosecurity: With the free markets come free pests that may wipe
a nation's natural advantage and farmers' economic sustainability. It is
the task of Government to set strict rules for the importation of agricultural
products; strict enforcement of these rules; and remedial action when an
emergency arises. The cost of biosecurity cannot be charged to farmers.
global 'free' markets: Since 1970 there has been a rush of manufacturers
moving to developing nations with cheap labour. They have been able to
relocate their means of production for increased profits, which repay their
investment in as little as five years, but farmers can't. Although global
markets have become increasingly free for manufactured products, particularly
those being re-exported to the country of origin, those same markets have
been unresponsive to farm products. The future cost of fuel for transport
and consequential relocation of production facilities, is not sufficiently
taken into account. A nation should protect itself from these 'hit and
miss' economic gamblings that could be devastating to long-term commitments