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A study of the comparative changes in agricultural productivity of British Columbia and Saskatchewan Lok, Siepko Hendrik

Abstract

The study endeavours to measure the growth in agricultural productivity and the concomitant changes in the relative contributions of the factors of production for the provinces of British Columbia and Saskatchewan over the period 1926 to 1954. Productivity is defined as the ratio of total output to total input¹, both expressed in physical units. The inputs were arranged in ten categories: labour, real estate, livestock, implements and machinery, cost of operating farm machinery, building costs, machinery costs, taxes, fertilizers, and miscellaneous. The outputs were arranged into four categories: field crops, livestock, forest products, and house rent. To facilitate the adding of the individual inputs and outputs, which occur in different units, the inputs and outputs are expressed in dollar values at constant prices. This is achieved by deflating the current dollar values by appropriate price indexes. Since the base period of price indexes is 1935-39, the inputs are expressed in dollar values at 1935-39 prices. Thus an index of the input values at 1935-39 prices is analagous to an index of the physical inputs and an index of the output values at 1935-39 prices is analagous to an index of the physical outputs. The analysis was to a certain extent hampered by the lack of requisite information and the inconsistencies in some of the published data. Though the degree of this inaccuracy could not be determined, it is worth noting that the output index numbers since 1935 were close to the Dominion Bureau of Statistics Index of Farm Production, derived from physical production data. Both indexes agreed reasonably well except for those of British Columbia between 1946 and 1954 during which period the Dominion Bureau of Statistics output index numbers were consistently higher. The secular trend in the productivity ratios was obscured by varying weather and economic conditions. To make comparisons possible, two periods were chosen during which there were full employment and favourable weather conditions - the years 1926-1928 and 1952-1954. The results indicated that between these two periods the overall agricultural productivity in British Columbia had increased by 17 per cent, and in Saskatchewan by 33 per cent. The changes in the input structure associated with these changes in productivity can be summarized as follows: (1) The relative contribution of labour has declined. In both provinces it dropped from the major input factor to the third largest input. (2) The relative share of real estate increased in British Columbia from the second largest to the largest input factor. In Saskatchewan the relative share of real estate remained the second largest input factor. (3) The relative share of machinery increased in both provinces. In Saskatchewan it advanced from third place in relative importance to become the main input item. While the relative share of machinery increased at a more rapid rate in British Columbia than in Saskatchewan - it follows immediately after real estate in terms of total input. (4) The remaining input factors are small in relation to the three mentioned above. Although a considerable increase may take place in the absolute amounts - as in the case of fertilizer - the effect upon the input structure was small. If the 1952-54 output index numbers for British Columbia were adjusted to those computed by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, agricultural productivity in British Columbia will have increased by 37 per cent. On the other hand, should the rate of productivity increase in British Columbia be really slower than in Saskatchewan, the explanation may lie in too rapid an introduction of technological improvements. ¹Inputs are resources used in a production process, outputs are the end products.

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