Thoughts on the Indian Economy

Thinking about assorted economic issues in India.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A New Kind of "Brain Drain"?

(First off, I would like to apologize for the extended absence. Between travel and upcoming relocation, my "thoughts" have not made it to the blogosphere. But I am now back to regular posting)

An article in this week's Outlook caught my attention. "A Piece of Canada" talks about a new league of immigrants in Punjab-- farmers. But these are not farmers who plan to migrate to Canada to pursue typical low-skilled jobs like cab driving. These Punjabi farmers are going to Canada to become Canadian farmers.

I don't usually think of farming as a "skill" that can be emigrated. Farming is heavily dependent on local conditions such as climate, soil and crop requirements of the country. Given the vast geographical differences between India and Canada, farming would not seem to be a tranferable skill. Also, given the large capital requirements of farming in a developed country, how could the typical Indian farmer afford to farm in Canada? If he were able to afford this, he would probably be pretty prosperous in Indian terms and this lowers the economic incentive to migrate.

However, changing demographics and market demand in Canada has changed this perception. An aging farming population and a booming demand for organic products has spurred local governments to attract foreign farmers. The 2001 Candian census reported that farm operators have a median age that is much higher than the comparable labor force population of self-employed workers. Moreover, the group of farmers under 35 years old poised to fill their boots is shrinking rapidly, representing only 12% of all farmers. The demand for organic products has risen by 15%-20% in recent years almost quadruple the demand for conventional products. These forces have driven Canadian policymakers to recruit farmers from abroad.
Outlook states,

"The flight to Canada began two years ago when Manitoba province introduced the Young Farmer Nominee Programme aimed at attracting farmers below 40. A farmer with a net worth of 1,50,000 Canadian dollars and proven experience in farm management could immigrate within a year or two via this process and have a chance to buy a farm in Manitoba. Prince Edward Island has a similar programme to attract immigrant farmers keen on organic farming. Immigration firms like WWICS say they are targeting fresh graduates from agricultural universities and the response is good."

In order to help Punjabi farmers emigrate, universities have started courses training farmers in Canadian farming techniques and conditions.

As cities expand rapidly, farmers' land values are soaring. Also, low productivity, lack of water and infrastructure and poor credit access is making farming less attractive. By sellling their land, Punjabi farmers are easily able to raise the capital required to invest in Canadian farmland and subsequently, emigrate.

In its approach paper to the 10th Five-Year Plan, the Planning Commision stresses that it is necessary to double the growth rate of agricultural (to around approx. 4%) and create a "Second Green Revolution" in order to attain a "China-Korea growth trajectory" (9.5%). Keeping this mind, it is not good news that farmers are pessimistic about their prospects in India and are choosing to invest their money and skills abroad.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting... How many farmers have emigrated from India to Canada?

12:37 PM  
Blogger Ishani said...

The article says,"The company (an immigration consultancy service) claims it has about 600 farmers on its rolls at various stages of the immigration process. It has helped 80 of them migrate in the last few years."

The numbers at this stage are not huge, but perhaps an interesting trend is developing...

1:05 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

what happened to the regular posts? slacker

11:03 AM  

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