Does nutrition really matter for the productivity of smallholder farmers?

Azra Tilai, Rayenda Khresna Brahmana, Hui Wei You

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Household-level data from Malaysia Smallholder paddy farmers are used to test whether higher caloric intake enhances family farm labour productivity. This study contests the notion behind the efficiency wages hypothesis. Farmers' productivity is estimated using Data Envelopment Analysis. To avoid estimation bias from reverse causality, we utilize a two-stage least square approach by choosing prices, household demography, and farm assets as instrumental variables. The results show that high caloric intake significantly affects farmers' productivity in a non-linear relationship. Farmers with obesity and overweight conditions produce less per unit of inputs and supply more labour than farmers with normal BMI and normal weight. The model results show that production inefficiency increases significantly with the high consumption calories, high BMI, and obesity of farmers providing solid support for the nutrition-productivity hypothesis. The marginal effect on productivity falls drastically as caloric intake increases. These outcomes recommend that investing in the health sector in rural areas will improve farmer productivity. Policymakers should develop approaches that will maximize agricultural investments' contribution to agricultural productivity and the overall rural economy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberJSSH-7408-2020
Pages (from-to)1125-1150
Number of pages26
JournalPertanika Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities
Issue number2
Early online date28 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License .


The authors would like to thank the paddy farmers in Sarawak for their valuable responses and their cooperation is given to conduct this research. This research acknowledges the financial assistance from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak through Special Grant No. MYRA F01/ SpMYRA/1678/2018.

Publisher Copyright:
© Universiti Putra Malaysia Press


  • Agricultural
  • Farmers
  • Health status
  • Nutrition
  • Productivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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