The price of childhood: on the link between prices paid to farmers and the use of child labour in cottonseed production in Andhra Pradesh, India

The price of childhood: on the link between prices paid to farmers and the use of child labour in cottonseed production in Andhra Pradesh, India

Child labour and the economics of cottonseed production

This paper examines whether or not the procurement price policy of the seed companies has any relationship with the widespread use of child labour in hybrid cottonseed production in Andhra Pradesh. The authors discuss how recent debates on this issue have exposed the contrasting views of the seed industry and child rights advocacy/campaign groups and farmers’ organisations.

Based on field work and village surveys, the report conducts an in-depth analysis of the costs of cottonseed cultivation, wages, yields, prices and profits.

The authors identify:

  • a rise in cultivation costs by 14.6% over the period (2002-04), attributable to the 8.0% rise in input costs. Because adults work shorter days and less intensively than children it has increased total labour needed per acre
  • fluctuating yields, falling average profits, declining profit margins and falling buying prices have put pressure on farmers to adopt a conservative view on substituting cheap child for more expensive adult labour
  • for adults on a minimum wage to replace child labourers the rise in price for consumers would be minimal (1%-3.5%) and have a small impact on profits of seed producers.

The paper concludes that procurement price policy is an important contributing factor for large-scale employment of child labour in the cottonseed sector. Unless this issue is addressed other interventions to address the problem of child labour in this sector will not be very effective.