Farming rice is known to be a very labor intensive process. Yet rice is so readily available and relatively cheaper than other crops. The answers below explain reasons for this in detail.
Rice is grown partly in . This reduces the need for pest control as most weeds can’t grow underwater.
- Because of this rice is only hard to grow when first planting; afterwards controlling the flow of the water is all that is really needed.
- Rice is harvested multiple times per year.
- Rice is very easy to store.
- Land and labor are cheap.
Also, it’s more or less a finished product after harvest. Compare that to something like wheat, which takes far more processing to get into an edible state.Demand is also probably significantly higher (for food at least) since it’s the staple food in the most populous parts of the world.
When you have cheap labor & cheap land, this isn’t a huge deal. When you have industrialized processes for harvesting and refining it, this cuts the costs down. When your processed product doesn’t spoil or require complex refrigerated storage/shipping, this keeps costs down and you don’t need to worry about spoilage.
I live in Madagascar; we have the highest per capital consumption of rice in the world. I teach Agriculture, including rice farming. I also have a degree in economics.
The fast answer is supply and demand. Rice is cheap because so many people farm it. For example, everyone in my country is a rice farmer (98% of the population farm rice or have land that a tenet farms rice on). If a seller tried to demand a high price for their rice, the buyer would just laugh at them and say they can grow their own or buy from the guy right next to them who is also selling rice. Products can’t demand high prices unless they are rare.
So why is the supply of rice so high if it is so hard to grow? Well all agriculture requires hard work, but it isn’t a constant job. There are two rice planting seasons in a year here which are each about a month’s worth of work, then there is harvesting and processing which is another month each. So in a year you’re looking at four months of hard work, four months of light work tending the fields, and four months of no work when it’s the dry season.
Agriculture also requires no formal education and is very easy to learn. It takes me an hour to teach the most advanced technique for planting rice. This means that poor rural villagers who cannot afford to go to school can still become rice farmers.
Food is cheap because either a poor rural farmer (which there a billions of in the world) grew it, or because a machine that can do the work of hundreds of people did. This means that the supply for all subsistence crops (including rice) is very high, which means the price is very low.
Crops only become expensive when they are rare. These are called cash crops because they generate a lot of income. Cash crops are rare, and thus valuable, usually because they require complex processes, a lot of labor or time, and/or special climate conditions. Examples of cash crops in Madagascar include vanilla, cacao, and cloves. It would take significantly longer to teach someone how to grow and process these crops.