Agriculture, Organization of Agricultural Activity
official targets, efficient scale, responsibility system, economic principle, individual household
In the 1950s the Communist government organized 800 million rural people into about 52,000 people's communes. The communes received production targets from the state and ensured that these targets were met. Each commune was divided into about 16 production brigades, which were further divided into about 7 production teams usually consisting of 100 to 250 people. Each level above the individual could hold land, tools, and other production materials under communal ownership, and each carried out a range of production activities.
Under the commune system, it was possible to conduct large-scale experimentation with scientific farming, to plant crops in areas with the most favorable soil and other natural conditions, and to develop irrigation and drainage on an efficient scale. Although land was collectively owned, each rural household usually had access to a small private plot, which it was free to use as it pleased. Both production teams and individual households were also given autonomy to market products after official targets were met.
In the early 1980s, in an effort to increase agricultural production, the government restructured the agricultural sector. The system of communes and production brigades was largely dismantled, and the household became the principal unit of agricultural production. Under the so-called household contracting and responsibility system, each household, after contracting with local authorities to produce its quota of specified crops, was free to sell any additional output on the free market. A major limitation of this system is its difficulty in achieving economies of scale. This refers to the economic principle that an individual household produces a smaller amount than a larger farm, but has some of the same basic expenses (for plows, for example) and therefore has a higher relative production cost. On a voluntary basis, some households have organized themselves into groups for product processing, marketing, and regional cooperation.
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