Gortland has long been narrowly self-sufficient in both

Question

Gortland has long been narrowly self-sufficient in both grain and meat. However, as per capita income in Gortland has risen toward the world average, per capita consumption of meat has also risen toward the world average, and it takes several pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat. Therefore, since per capita income continues to rise, whereas domestic grain production will not increase, Gortland will soon have to import either grain or meat or both.

Which of the following is an assumption on which the argument depends?

Option A
Option B
Option C
Option D
Option E

(This question is from Official Guide. Therefore, because of copyrights, the complete question cannot be copied here. The question can be accessed at GMAT Club)

Solution

Understand the Passage

Gortland has long been narrowly self-sufficient in both grain and meat.

Self-sufficient means demand < supply. Narrowly self-sufficient means demand ~ supply (~ means almost equal).
So, in Gortland demand ~ supply (for both grain and meat)

However, as per capita income in Gortland has risen toward the world average, per capita consumption of meat has also risen toward the world average,

Two things have happened simultaneously in Gortland.

Per capita income ↑ and Per capita consumption of meat ↑. Both the figures have converged toward world average.

(if consumption of meat continues to rise, Gortland may not remain self-sufficient)

and it takes several pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat.

To produce one pound meat, we need several pounds of grain.

Therefore, since per capita income continues to rise, whereas domestic grain production will not increase, Gortland will soon have to import either grain or meat or both.

Given:

  1. Per capita income continues to ↑
  2. Domestic grain production will not

The argument concludes that Gortland will have to import either grain or meat or both.

The reasoning behind the conclusion is that since the per capita income is increasing, the per capita consumption of meat will also go up. Since, currently, demand and supply for meat and grain are almost equal, the additional demand for meat will need to be satisfied by either importing the meat directly or by converting grain into meat or by a combination of these two methods. In each of these cases, Gortland will need to import one or both of meat and grain.

Predict an Answer

The argument makes the below assumptions:

  1. The past trend (in which per capita income and per capita consumption of meat increase simultaneously) will continue in the future.

About the future, we know from the passage that per capita income will increase. The passage doesn’t say that per capita consumption of meat will go up. Just a past trend has been mentioned in which both increase simultaneously. However, it is possible that this trend will not continue in the future. In such a case, there will not be any need for imports. Thus, the argument will break down in such a case.

  1. The consumption of grain will not significantly go down.

The passage mentions only about the consumption of meat. It doesn’t mention about the consumption of grain. Now, we can think that if people increase their consumption of meat and simultaneously decrease their consumption of grain, Gortland may remain self-sufficient and thus, may not need to import meat or grain. In such a case, the argument will break down.

The point to note here is that we need “significantly” in the assumption. Why? Because it takes several pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat. So, for every 1 pound increase in the consumption of meat, there has to be several pounds decrease in the consumption of grain for Gortland to remain self-sufficient.

Option Analysis

(A) Incorrect. If the total acreage decreases significantly, then Gortland will need to import. Thus, we can see that the negation of this option strengthens the argument. For an option to be an assumption, the negation should break down the argument. This option seems to be doing opposite.

(B) Incorrect

  • The negation of this option is: The population has not remained relatively constant.
  • Now, it could mean that the population has gone down or it could mean that the population has gone up. In the latter case, the negation will support the argument. Therefore, this option is not an assumption.
  • Please note that in the former case i.e. when the population has gone down, the negation of this option can break down the argument. Why? Because if the population has gone down, then even if per-capita consumption has gone up, the total consumption may not have increased. Thus, Gortland may not need to import meat or grain ‘soon’. However, this scenario is just one of the scenarios out of the negation of the option and in the other scenario, the option doesn’t break down. Therefore, this option is not an assumption.
  • Given our analysis, we can see that the below statement will be an assumption:
    The population of Gortland has not decreased during the country's years of growing prosperity.
  • There is a slight problem with the above statement, however. The problem is that the conclusion is in the future tense, and this option is in the present perfect tense. If we change the above statement to below, it will be a correct assumption:

The population of Gortland will not decrease as the per-capita income increases.

(C) Incorrect. This option is completely irrelevant since the distribution of consumption at different income levels is irrelevant.

(D) Incorrect. This option is irrelevant because we have no information about the impact of government price controls on these items. How does it impact their consumption? So, whether these items are subject to or not subject to government price controls is irrelevant for us.

(E) Correct. In-line with our second predicted answer.

  • The negation of this option is: People in Gortland who increase their consumption of meat will radically decrease their consumption of grain.
  • If such people radically decrease their consumption of grain, then the total consumption of grain will go down, and such leftover grain can be used to produce additional meat required. Therefore, Gortland will not need to import meat or grain in this case.
  • We can see that the negation of this option breaks down the argument. Therefore, this option is an assumption.

About Chiranjeev Singh

An Alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad and with scores of 780 (2017) and 770 (2013) on GMAT and 99.98%ile on CAT, Chiranjeev is one of the most qualified GMAT tutors in India. Chiranjeev has earlier served as Director of Curriculum at e-GMAT. Chiranjeev has been helping students ace GMAT since 2012. He follows a concept-based methodology to teaching GMAT and is very committed to student success. You may contact him for any private GMAT tutoring needs at CJ@GMATwithCJ.com. He conducts online sessions for students across the world.

2 Comments

  1. Analysis of this CR question shows the depth we need to go in CR

    Amazing analysis !!

    CJ, can we have more such analysis on official questions?

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