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East Germany Table of Contents

East Germany


According to official East German sources, in 1985 agriculture and forestry employed 10.8 percent of the labor force, received 7.4 percent of gross capital investments, and contributed 8.1 percent to the country's net product. Agricultural output did not meet domestic demand. According to Western sources, in 1983 it satisfied about 90 percent of the country's needs, the shortfall being imported. Excellent harvests in 1984 and 1985, however, greatly reduced East Germany's dependence on imports.

The Soviet model, introduced after World War II, was the basis for the system of collective and state farms. Collectivization was not forced on East German agriculture, which previously had been dominated by family farming operations, until the late 1950s. By 1960, however, about 85 percent of the farmland was either collectivized or state owned. State farms, on which everyone is an employee of the central government, remained much less important in East Germany than in the Soviet Union. Collective farms, that is, agricultural producer cooperatives, constituted the dominant form of agricultural organization. In 1984 they occupied about 85.8 percent of the total agricultural land, while state farms held only about 7 percent. Other land in the socialist agricultural sector, which made up 95 percent of total land in 1984, was held by horticultural cooperatives and various other specialized units.

Three kinds of collective farms--types I, II, and III--have existed since the early days of collectivization. Types I and II are generally considered to be transitional to type III, the most advanced form. On type I farms, only the plowland must be collectively used. All other land and productive resources are left for the members' individual use. On type II collective farms, all farmland is cooperatively used except small private plots retained by each member family. In addition, members surrender all machinery and equipment needed for the operation of the collective sector. Type III farms are completely collectivized. All productive resources (including plowland, forests, meadows, bodies of water, machinery, and buildings) except for small private plots and a few head of livestock are used collectively. To become a member of a type III collective, a farmer must contribute property--buildings, livestock, and machinery--of a specified value, which becomes the property of the organization. Members whose assets are not adequate to meet this requirement may discharge their obligation out of earned income over a period of time. Work on the private plots must take place during noncommunal work hours. Owners of private plots can sell and bequeath them.

On all collective farms, distribution of the income remaining after compulsory contribution to several specialized funds is based on the amount of land surrendered by each member and the amount of work performed for the collective. The second of these factors is more heavily weighted than the first. The retention of landownership does have a basis in law; in the past, individual members have received compensation for their land when it has been removed from the control of the collective for conversion to industrial use. Each collective farmer must contribute at least the minimum annual amount of work prescribed by the collective assembly (general meeting of all members). Members who do not perform the specified minimum work are penalized by deductions from their incomes. In line with SED policy, minimum annual work norms help ensure that members devote their energies primarily to the collective sector rather than to their own private plots. By 1980 there were only about 10,000 farmers operating types I and II collective farms, thus bringing the vast majority of collective farmers into the type III farm favored by the party.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, the trend in East German agriculture was toward larger units; some crop-producing collectives and state farms combined to form cooperatives holding 4,000 to 5,000 hectares. These agribusinesses, known as Cooperative Departments of Crop Production (Kooperative Abteilungen der Pflanzenproduktion--KAP), which included foodprocessing establishments, became the dominant form of agricultural enterprise in crop production. In the early 1980s, specialization also took place in livestock production.

In 1982 the East German government announced a reform program for agriculture. General goals were an improvement in rural life and an increase in autonomy for the agricultural producer cooperatives. The program called for closer cooperation between arable and livestock farming to facilitate planning, especially with regard to feedstuffs. It also provided greater incentives for cooperative farms and modest encouragement of the small private sector.

During the early 1980s, agricultural performance was lackluster, lagging behind industrial growth. However, in 1984 and 1985 excellent harvests occurred. Although favorable weather played a part, both Western and official sources ascribed additional credit to the agricultural reforms.

Data as of July 1987

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