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2nd Revision

Introduction

 
FAQ
Why was there a famine during the "Great Leap Forward"?
Per capita grain production declined sharply by 30% in 1960 and 28% in 1961 - as compared to the reference period of 1956/57.
This nationwide decline in food availability was not primarily caused by natural disasters, but was the result of policy measures for the Great Leap Forward. These measures included the forced extraction of labor for the village industry, which caused agricultural labor shortages during the harvest periods.
The industrialization program of the Great Leap Forward caused a huge increase in the non-agricultural labor force. The number of people working in state and collective enterprises grew from 31 million in 1957 to 52 million in 1958 - a 20 million increase in a single year (Peng, 1987). These workers could no longer produce their own grain, but depended on the state distribution system (which explains, why state grain procurement in these years sharply increased).
A failure in grain distribution between provinces contributed to the crisis. There were substantial inequalities in per capita grain output between provinces, which were not balanced despite much higher procurement of grain by the state during the crisis period. Lack of timely information, organizational chaos, deficient transportation infrastructure and bad logistics contributed to the failure in state-organized grain distribution.
(see also: Ashton et al., 1984; Banister, 1987)
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Revision 2.0 (First revision published in 1999)  - Copyright İ 2011 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved. (First revision: Copyright İ 1999 by IIASA.)