What is the work of an Agricultural Economist? What are the Prospects in this Field?
Agricultural Economists are concerned with all economical activities that influence agriculture and the distribution of agricultural products. The primary objective of agricultural economists is to increase profitability in agriculture and improve human prosperity. They pursue this aim through studying and analyzing the aspects which influence the agricultural economy, and giving advice.
This includes the manufacture and distribution of agricultural means of production, farming itself, the determination of government policy concerning agricultural and consumption affairs, the purchasing, processing and distribution of agricultural products, the financing of all aspects of agricultural production and the sale of agricultural products, economic evaluation of agricultural projects, agricultural development as well as research and advice on all these facets.
Each agricultural economist usually specializes in a certain field.
The field of study of the agricultural economist can be divided into seven components namely:
Production economics: This involves the relationship between the inputs, production and profit as well as labor utilization
Financial management: This includes aspects such as the management process itself, agricultural planning and the principles of financing.
Agricultural marketing: This involves all aspects of marketing such as the price system and market types.
Agricultural policy: This involves the interaction between agriculture and other sectors, the trade policy, production policy, price and income policy and the government functions.
Agricultural development: This is about the role which agriculture plays in the development of the economy as well as the role of the government and private initiative.
Operational research: This is the application of economic simulation and optimization techniques on agricultural problems.
Natural resource and environmental economics: The economic evaluation of the interaction between agricultural production processes and the natural environment.
Agricultural economists must be interested in agriculture and agricultural affairs. Their approach to problem solving should be creative, thorough and analytical. Good communication skills are important.
The following government departments employ agricultural economists: The Departments of Agriculture, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Industry, Labor, Environment Affairs & Tourism, Water Affairs and Forestry as well as provincial authorities.
Other institutions and organizations which employ agricultural economists are: agricultural producer organizations, financial institutions such as commercial banks, financial banks and insurance companies; agricultural co-operatives, commercial and manufacturing companies concerned with agricultural inputs and products, such as the fertilizer-, chemical-, machinery-, forage-, meat processing-, fruit trade and processing and food preservation and canning industries; agricultural companies and consulting firms, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and agricultural development corporations.