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3.1 Introduction Kerala has a unique place in the geographical map of India. A narrow coastal belt lying sandwiched between the western ghats on the east and the Arabian sea on the west with an area of 38,863 sq. Kms, (1.1 per cent of the geographical area of India) and a total population of 3 1.84 million (3.1 per cent of India's population-200 I census), the state has all the characteristics of a distinct geographical unit. It lies between 8'18' and 12' 48' North latitude and 74'22' and 77" 22' East longitude. The union territory of Lakshadweep a cluster of islands 1s situated in the Arabian sea off the coast of North Kerala. The state of Tamil Nadu borders it on the south and partly on the east, the state of Karnataka on the North and partly on the east. Kerala state although very small in geographical extent comprises different types of land resource configurations and land use patterns. The state is quite different in physiography, climate, soil and crops when compared to other states of India. There is multiplicity of natural resource endowments in the state unlike the extensive and monotonous agro-climatic situations prevalent in other states of India. Kerala is relatively rich in resources which are needed for agricultural production. Kerala has a high bio-mass production potential. The state is endowed with solar radiation for 365 days despite cloudy days during the rainy months, average annual precipitation of 300

cms, 5-6 types of soil, undulating topography alternating with hills and valleys, altitude ranging from below sea level to soaring 25000m. Like the adversity and richness in land resources, Kerala is better endowed with water resources also. Kerala is well known for its biological wealth. Biological scientists consider Kerala as a genetic paradise since almost every household is a genetic garden The land, water, flora and fauna of the state provide opportunities for the livelihood security of the people of the state. Kerala's rich wild life offers opportunities for eco-tourism. Agriculture continues to be the most important and single largest sector of the state's economy accounting for 21.38 per cent of state's income in 2000-2001 and providing livelihood security for vast majority of the people. The sector supports 38 per cent of the workers of the state. It is the raw material base for the traditional industries like coir, cashew, oil mill etc. Most of the crops grown in the state are of national importance by way of earning/ saving of valuable foreign exchange by exportJimport substituion.
In spite of the relative richness in resource endowments and high gross


income per u n ~ tof land the yield of most of the crops grown in Kerala is lower than all India average. Notwithstanding the investment and development activities which took place during the last few decades the yield of many of the crops have not improved substantially. In fact the yield of some of the crops are showing declining tendencies.

Government ot Kerala Thlruvanathapuram, p 7

Econorn~c review 2001 Kerala state planning Board

3.2. Physiographic Divisions and Cropping Patterns

The vernacular name for the district Malabar, 'Malayalam' (the land of hills)' the ancient name of modem Kerala which properly includes cochin, Travancore and Malabar and is the product of States Reorganization Act (central Act xxxvii) of 1956~. Both Kerala Mahatrnyam and Kerololpatti start with the legend that the Malanad was miraculously reclaimed from the sea by Parasuraman and peopled by him with Brahmans. Ancient Kerala was divided into five regions (tenais) on the basis of soil formation and topography namely marutham, (cultivable area) palai (uncultivated barren and rockey region) Kurinji (hilly area) neytal (coastal area) and mullai (pasture land14. In modem times Kerala has been divided into three natural physiographic divisions on the basis of physical features. They are the high land, the low d land and the m ~ land. The western ghats which bound Kerala on its eastern side and dominate its topography constitute the high land. While the upper ranges in these mountainous area are covered by thick forest, the lower ranges have their plantations which lay interspersed with forests. Teak, rosewood and other valuable trees grow in these areas which present every where a splendid luxuriance of foliage and flowers. Crops like tea, coffee, cardamom and turmeric abound in the higher elevations while in the sub mountain tracts in and below the ghats are grown crops like pepper, ginger and rubber.

' Malabar yazateer C.A. Innes Government of Kerala 1997 (First published in 1908-vol I&Il page chapter 11. ' Census of India 1961, vol. VII- Kerala part I A (i) general Report.

A. Sreedhara Menon (1997) Land and People. The Natural Resources of Kerala (ED) 1997 K Balachandran Thampi, N.M. Nayar, C.S. Nagar world wide fund for Nature. Kerala state office Thiruvanathapuram, p.302.

The low land is comprised of the long and narrow coastal belt on the west with stretches of sand and backwaters. The landscape in this area is dominated by extensive paddy fields and numerous coconut plantations. In between the high land and low land is the midland which presents an undulating country covered by laterite soil cut across by rivers. Here may be seen the villages broken intermittently by isolated hills and also the plains leading to the forest clad uplands. The area is rich in agricultural production and a variety of crops including rice, tapioca, banana, pepper, ginger coconut, arecanut and rubber are grown. Considerable variations are observed in the soil and cropping patterns between the three natural physiographic divisions. are These div~sions given in the following table. Table 3.1 Physiographic Divisions of Kerala

E E l


Revenue villages lying 250' (76.2m) lands and more above MSL Revenue vlllages lying between 25' and 250' (7.62 m and 76.2m) above MSL Revenue vlllages lying below 25' Low land5 (7.62m) above MSL . _ - _ - Total area

Area ~ m ' s . %of total 48.00 18653 16231





Source: Report of the committee on Agro-Climatic zones and cropping pattern. Government of Kerala April 1974, p.3. The criteria for the natural physiographic divisions of Kerala considers only one variable namely the altitude above Mean Sea Level (MSL). Hence each division (highlands, midlands and low lands) would comprise diverse agro-ecological entities and resultant land use patterns. In order to identify

homogenous agro-climate regions the criteria should include more variables like climate soil etc. Based on the recommendation of the National

Commission on Agriculture (1976) on Agro-Climate Zones and the Committee on Cropping Pattern (Govt. of Kerala), the state has been delineated into thirteen agro-climate zones on the basis of four principal parameters viz. altitude, rainfall, soil type and topography. Table 3.2 and Map 1 give an account of the agro-climatic zones of Kerala from 1974 onwards.
Table 3.2 Agro- climatic Zones of Kerala

** Lower values show percentage share in the total. Source: Report of the committee on ago-climate zones and cropping pattern, Deparhnent of Agriculture. Government of Kerala, p.12.

Map Y iigro-Climatic zones of Kerala



: :!LACY


,' -


,i ::


. --. > 8 ..,~

, '

<-. pSs
I> '. .: ,


,.. V , l : ) A

, I




- - v ~ ~ h ~, ~ I;W M F I I T ~ ~ ~ T S I,' ~ r


. ,
3 ,
" , 1

: ;





,,,,~ ~ " " c ~ . : Y i i Y w

II,KR_III 1 " l , i 1 i :



s", : I..,
, '


;! :.




i<e~-ala, Report of the Committee on Agro-Climatic ,-nppinqPattern. ..

ropping Systems

7.3 1,and

irLr .3.1fr



(>I-yhigh degree of land use and cropping intensity even


t ' l ,

~ . ~ , ! : ~ r ~ ~ n c i e n tThe state has opted for an extensive days.

a i . r i c ~ ~ l ~ ~ l r ! ~ cluite often leading to situations beyond the canying #,il

capacity of the ecological systems. The Kerala state has the distinction of having attained a very high degree of land use with an intensity of cropping of
1 3 ~The scope for bringing new areas under plough is rather limited with ~ .

only a meager four per cent of geographical area. The soils of the state can broadly be classified into sandy, alluvial, laterite, red black, peaty and forest and hill soils. Of this laterite soils are by far the most important group found in Kerala and cover the largest area (29%16. Diversity, beauty and economic value are the special characteristics of the flora of Kerala.
A study of the land use pattern shows that the land put to agricultural

use has reached a saturation point recording a level of 57.9 per cent. The net area sown has recently shown a declining trend. The main reasons for this are the high density of population (819 per sq Krn, 2001 census) and the diversion of land for non-agricultural purposes like construction of houses and creation of infrastructural facilities. A perceptible trend noticed with regard to area under cultivation

the fall in the area under food crops like grains, pulses,

cereals etc and the increase in the area under plantation and commercial crops eg:- rubber, tea, coffee etc. Corresponding trends have been noticed in production in these fields as well. The following table (Table 3.3) give an account of the classification of the area under different land use from 1960-61 to 2000-2001.

Report of the Taskforce on Agriculture IXth Plan, State Planning Board Thimvanathapuram, Chapter 1, p. 16. Census of India- 1961-vol VII. Kerala part I a(i), General Report, Chapter I, Section 11, pp.1-22.

Table 3.3 Area under the different land use classification in Kerala during the period 1960-61 to 2000-01

11992.93 1993-94 (1994-95

(Area '000 hectares)

Total geographical area Forest Land put to nonagricultural uses Barren and uncultivable land Permanent pastures and grazing land Land under miscellaneous tree

3885 1056 205 151 45

3885 1055 275 72 28

3885 1082 270



3885 1082 303 55 2


388, 1082 323 48.4 1.46 32.4

3885 1082 313 43 1.11 26.85

I :

3885 1082 318 41 .93 23.26

3885 1082 320 38.9 .83 22.03



1082 297 58 2

1082 301 55 2

1082 308 51.5 1.57 36.7

1082 1 0 8 2 327 28.5 .52 19.04 354 28.8 .25

: C-I





86 5

29.3 .16










2) Agricultural statistics (various issues), Dept of Economics and Statistics, Govt..of Kerala.

The land use systems of the state present a complex pattern with a great diversity of trees and field crops. Cropping systems include intercropping, mixed cropping, sequential cropping and many other forms of poly cultures involving a wide spectrum of crops like cereals, pulses, tubers, fruits, vegetables, latex and oil yielding tree and annual crops, beverages, continents and spices, sugar crops, forages, medicinal plants, green manure crops and timber yielding species. Plantation agriculture is the principal land use activity in the state. Trees including perenn~alhorticultural crops have formed an integral component of the Kerala landscape since early times. In the relatively low lying areas rice and rice based cropping systems are dominant. Though a poly culture cropping pattern involving many crops is common throughout the state four major cropping systems can be delineated. These are rice based cropping system, coconut based cropping system, tapioca based cropping system and homestead farming system. In certain isolated parts cropping systems based on banana, arecanut and pepper also exist. Although rubber occupies a dominant position in respect of area it is generally grown under mono-cultural situations.

Rice based Cropping System

Rice the staple food of the people is grown predominantly in the low lands where water is abundant. One to three rice crops are taken in the same land in a year depending on the availability of water. Many crops like pulses, tubers, vegetables and green manures are often grown in succession with rice during winterisummer seasons.

Since the mid seventies agriculture in Kerala had been undergoing a structural transformation in favour of cash crops. Food crops in general and rice crop in particular suffered severe set back in area and production. Even though the cropping pattern in general was predominated by perennial cash crops, as a single crop rice could retain its pride of place by accounting for the largest area. The area under rice in Kerala touched its peak of 8.85 lakh hectares in 1975-76 with an annual record production of 13.65 lakh tones. The trend after mid seventies witnessed a sharp decline in area under the crop to 3,47,455 lakh hectares in 2000-2001. Rice cultivation was gradually sinking in to a high cost low productive small holder crop regime. Production of rice has declined to 7,50,328 tonnes in 2000-2001 though yield increased from 1,520 kgmsha in 1975-76 to more than 2,000 kgmsha in the 90's. It is remaining more or less stagnant at 2,162 kgmsha in 2000-2001 per capita rice production in the state has been reduced from 65 kgms in the 70's to 30 kgms in the 90's and to 23.57 kgrns in 2000-2001. Coconut based Cropping System Coconut is the most important tree crop of the state. The seventies and eighties witnessed a steady and continuous increase in the area as well as production and yield. The area which was 6.93 lakh hectares in 1975.76 has consistently increased over the years and reached 9.26 lakh hectares in 20002001. Production also increased from 3439 million nuts in 1975-76 to 5536 million nuts in 2000-2001. Productivity also increased from 4963 nuts per hectares in 1975-76 to 5980 nuts per hectare in 2000-2001. The annual average growth in area coverage and yield works out to be 3.37 per cent and

two per cent. Coconut cultivation in the state is now in the midst of a severe crisis due to the adverse effect on production and yield. Crop diseases like root wilt diseases and attack of mite (mandari), increased cultivation in neigbouring states, import of coconut oil at lower rates of duty and fluctuations in the price of coconut etc. adversely affect the income of coconut cultivators in the state. To overcome the crisis, the cultivators practice inter cropping. Inter cropping a wide spectrum of crops including woody perennials is the hall mark of this farming system. The combination of crown architecture and the wide spacing adopted in coconut plantations facilitate such intercroppmg of perennials like pepper, arecanut, nut mug, clove, cocoa and pineapple and annuals like banana, turmeric, ginger, fodder crops, pulses, oilseeds and many multi-purpose trees. Tapioca based Cropping Systems Tapioca is a crop of much significance to the state. It is the most important supplementing food crop. Despite this, its area and production have been steadily declining. The area of the crop has come down drastically from 3.27 lakh hectares in 1975-76 to 1,14,609 hectares in 2000-2001 and production from 53,90,2 17 tonnes to 2,586,903 tonnes in 2000-2001. A positive trend in the case of this crop is a steady improvement in yield from 16,491 kgmstha to 22,257 kgmslha during the same period. Homestead farming 93.96 per cent of the holdings of the state are marginal (<1 hectare) as against 58.98 per cent at the all India level and the average size of the

operational holdings is only 0.33 ha7. As a result cultivation in the uplands involves an assertment of trees, shrubs and herbs growing together in a small area and form~ngspecial land use systems known as homestead farming. Home gardens (homestead farms) are operational farm units that integrate trees with field crops, livestock, poultry, fish having the basic objective of ensuring sustained availability of multiple crops such as food, vegetables, fruits, fodder, fuel, timber, green leaf manure, medicines, ornamentals, besides generating cash income and employment. (The income per unit of homestead farm is higher in Kerala by 1.5 times than the all India average). In this type of farm no single crop dominate. Coconut is however an integral component of most of the homesteads in Kerala. An interesting feature of the home garden system is that more than 80 per cent of the produce generated in the homestead

consumed within the family itself and the remaining 20 per

cent is only disposed off to provide any subsidiary incomes Other salient tree based land use systems of the state include growing multipurpose trees either or farm boundaries or as scattered trees in the'fields, growing commercial crops (tea, coffee, pepper etc) under shade trees or trailed on to them, growing commercial crops (cardamom) under the shade of trees in natural forests, live fences, shelter belts etc.

Agricultural Census 1995-96 Directorate of Economical and statistics Government of Kerala, p. 195. P.K Ashokan and B. Mohankumar Cropping Systems and their Water use'. Page 200-206. Natural Resources of Kerala (Ed) 1997, K. Balachandran Thampi, N.M. Nayar, C.S. Nayar - Worldwide Fund for Nature, Kerala State Office, Thiruvananthapuram, pp.200206.


Rubber Rubber is a major crop of the state. It is experiencing a steady increase in area and production in the last two and a half decades. It is largely grown as a monocrop. Recently Rubber Board, the agency concerned with its development has approved the growing of various intercrops like banana, vegetable etc in rubber plantations during the juvenile phase. Area under cultivation of rubber has increased from 2,06,686 hectares in 1975-76 to
4,74,364 hectares 2000-2001, production from 1,28,769 tonnes to 5,79,866

tonnes and yield 623 kgmsha to 1222 kgsha during the same period9. Instability and fluctuations in the price of rubber is a matter of serious concern for the rubber cultivators. Spices and condiments Kerala has been the principal producer of pepper, cardamom and arecanut. The area under pepper increased from 108251 hectares in 1975-76 to 202133 hectares in 2000-2001, production from 24580 tonnes to 60929 tonnes in 2000-2001 and yield from 227 kgm/ha 301 kgm/ha during the same period. The area under arecanut during the period declined from 93042 hectares to 87360 hectares, but production has increased from 11387 million nuts to 87950 tonnes and yield from 148620 nutsha to 22599 nutsha in 199798 and declined to 1007 kgmsha in 2000-2001'~.In the area and production

and yield of spices and condiments wide fluctuations occur due to diseases like qulck wilt of pepper, yellow leaf disease of arecanut etc. Still the state accounts for CJ6per cent of pepper, 73 per cent of cocoa, 67 per cent of cardamom, 24 per cent of arecanut, of production in the country.
' i


Farm Gulde,(Variousissues), Farm Information Bureau, Thimvananthapuram. Farm Guide,(Various issues), Farm Information Bureau, Thimvananthapuram

Horticultural Development

The agro-climatic endowments in the state are considered to be suitable for a wide variety of horticultural crops ranging from tropical to semi-temperate varieties of fruits vegetables and flowers. However there was no organized effort for tapping the potential with a commercial outlook in the past. Kerala is the homeland of'a wide variety of banana and plantatain which have very wide market potential. The area under banana and other plantatain has increased from 52351 hectares in 1975-76 to 99412 hectares in 200-2001, production from 395054 tonnes to 731650 tonnes in 2000-2001, and yleld from 7556 kgmslha to 9838 kgrniha in 97-98 and declined to 7360 kgms/hal' in 2000-2001. Thus the land use systems of Kerala present a complex scenario with tremendous diversity of trees and field crops grown in poly cultural systems including home gardens or as sole crops. The cropping intensity is one of the highest in India. Rice, Coconut, rubber, pepper, tapioca, cashew, banana and other plantations represent 80 per cent of the total cropped area in Kerala. The cropping pattern of the state has been undergoing drastic changes during the last few decades. There has been a steady drift towards less labour absorbing land use systems. Rice that occupied the principal position in the cropping pattern of the state had been relegated to the third position. Much of the area originally under rice has been replaced by plantation crops such as coconut, rubber, arecanut or are lying fallow. This shift in land use pattern can be attributed to the ever increasing labour wages, fragmented holdings, non-

availability of farm labour especially during the peak seasons, high cost of inputs, besides several socio-economic and socio-cultural factors. This shift in land use pattern further reveals the commercialization of the cropping pattern. Thus the emerging land use pattern even after a decade long persistent efforts through legal interventions backed by special incentives1 schemes1 promotional measures does not appear to have made any significant development in arresting the shift in land use from seasonallannual food crops to perennial cash crops. Out of the 22.5 lakh hectares of net cropped area 12.5 lakh hectares are under mono cropping systems comprising rubber, tea, coffee, cashew, cardamom combined with net area under paddy. No inter cropping is possible under these crops. Out of the remaining 10 lakh hectares coconut occupies nearly 9 lakh hectares and the balance 1 lakh hectare is accounted by miscellaneous crops. It is clear from these figures that most of our traditional crops like pepper, arecanut, banana, ginger, turmeric, tapioca, nutmeg, clove, vegetables, minor tubers etc are all mainly grown as intercrops in coconut gardens. Thus it is mainly the coconut gardens which supports the seasonal and annual crops of the state. The prosperity of the agriculture sector and the farmers particularly the weaker sections is closely linked with the development of'the coconut based agricultural system.

3.4 Trends in the Agricultural Development in Kerala

Kerala state formed in 1956 inherited a very strong agricultural base as stated in the Malabar gazateer, Travnancore state Manual and the Cochin state Manual. Two thirds of the population of Malabar were agriculturists. The

riotwari d~stricts the east coast were mainly grain producing districts. The of Malabar district was largely a horticultural one. The average agricultural holding measured 6.43 acres. According to a census taken in 1827,788 square miles of area is estimated to be under rice cultivation, 120 square miles by extensive gardens and enclosures of coconut, areka, jack, and other production trees and the reminder by low hillsI2. In Travancore out of the total population of 2,901,085 in the year 1931, 1,167,451 were engaged in agriculture of which 7,85,190 accept it as the principal occupation, 1,18,338 as working dependants and 2,63,923 as subsidiary occupation which comes over 39 per cent of the total working population'3. Thus Travancore also is pre-eminently an agricultural country. It is a country of small holdings. The total number of holdings 6 per cent were less than 20 cents in extend, 26 per cent less than 60 cents, 38 per cent less than 5 acres and 95.5 per cent less than 10 acres and only 4.5 per cent are 10 acres or more. 77.2 per cent of the value of the total production of the state was represented by agricultural produce'4. Out of the 31,00,000 acres of cultivable land 80.65 per cent is subject to some kind of agricultural effort. Rice is the staple food grain and occupied the largest area of 6,63,184 acres(2 1.4 per cent). In Coch~nagriculture supports 51 per cent of the population and agriculture is the predominant occupation of the people as well as their chief


'' C. A Innes Malahar Gazetteer, government of Kerala vol I & I1 page 228-para 3, Part I a Descriptive Memoir of Malahar, p.228. " T.K Velluppillai- The Travancore State Manual vol I general features government of

Kerala p 249. Ibid., vol 111. Economic Affairs, page I para I.

means of livelihoodi5. The state's income from agriculture and allied activities increased from Rs.18,923.24 lakhs in 1950-51 to 25,102.96 lakhs in
1960-61 of wh~chthe share of agriculture alone was Rs.16,884.4 lakhs and

Rs.2 1,995.68 lakhs respectively'6. Agricultural Development from 1960-1990. Agriculture in Kerala which has the distinction of having the highest gross income per net cropped area at the very beginning of the plan era could not sustain this after. The average gross income generated per hectare in The Kerala is Rs.3 1,468 while the national average is only ~ s . 1 4 , 1 7 8 ' ~ . average growth rate recorded by the Kerala agriculture between 1960 and 1990 is estimated to be 1.66 per cent as against the national average of 2.7 per cent". The sectoral contribution made by the agriculture to the state's domestic product declined from 54.6 per cent in 1960-61 to 42.6 per cent in 1972-73 and further to 34.47 per cent in 1990-91 in conformity with the natural trends in the diversification of the economy. The growth rate of agricultural income in Kerala was not stable, steady, consistent and uniform. seventies it was stagnant. During the 1980's it came out of the In the m ~ d stagnancy witnessed in the mid seventies. However this positive trend in growth has not been steady and consistent. The reasons are multifold.


Achuyta Menon (1995) Government of Kerala, The Cochin state Manual. Chapter VI p.340. 16 Census of lndla 1961 vol VU Kerala part I A general report, p.211. 17 Government of Kerala (1998) Economic Review-Directorate of Economics and Statistics, p.32. IX National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (2003), State Focus Paper, Kerala 2003-2004. Th~ruvanathapuram, 12 p.

The Growth of Agriculture from 1990's to the Millennium

The growth rate of agriculture in Kerala fluctuated from just 0.43 per cent in 1992-98 to over four per cent in 1997-98 and to 3.73 per cent in 20002001. The pattern of growth shows variations among different crops, regions and also in relation to the other sectors of the economy. The following table

3.4 shows the growth of agricultural income from 1960-61 to 2000-01 and the
sectoral contribution to the state's income. Table 3.4 Growth of agricultural income in Kerala from 1960-61 to 2000-2001

1.66 per cent average rate of growth over the period from 1960-61 to 1990-91. Source: 1. Government of Kerala Agricultural statistics (various issues) Department of Econon~ics statistics- Thiruvanathapuram. and 2. Government of Kerala - Economic review (various issues), Kerala state planning Board-Thiruvanthapuram 3. Statistics for Planning (various issues) Government of Kerala, Department of Economics and Statistics- Thimvanthapuram. 4. Nat~onalBank for Agricultural and Rural Development (2003) State Focus paper Kerala 2003-2004 Thimvanathapuram.

As noted by many studies the period following mid seventies has been marked by a general decline in agriculture. The trend in growth rates of Net State Domestic Product as well as primary sector during 1975-87 were either negligible or negative. As summary table 3.5 is presented below. Table 3.5 Trend growth rates of different sectors in Kerala economy Period I (1965-75) Period I1 (1975-87) 1.99 -0.86
-. -

Period 111 (1987-1997) 6.00 4.57 6.3 1 6.96

Secondary Tertiary

1.65 4.24 4.06

Period 1 Kannan K.P, Pusphangadhan K (1990) Disserting Agricultural stagnation in Kerala - An analysis across crops-seasons and regions Economic and political weekly September 1990. Period I1 & 111 K.N. Harilal and K.J Joseph (2000) Stagnation and Revival of Kerala Economy- an open Economy perspective C.D.S working paper No: 305.

Another notable feature of the development of agriculture in Kerala is the increase in the share of population depending on this sector for employment and income even though the share of agricultural income in Net State Domestic Product is declining. 1991 census reveals that there was a net addition of 1.28 lakh cultivators and 2.03 lakh agricultural labourers in the working population dependent on agriculture during the decennium ending 1991. The cultivators (10.15 lakhs) and agricultural labourers (21.70 lakhs)

together account for more than 37 per cent of the total working population. According to 2001 census 38 per cent of the total working population is for engaged in agr~culture their livelihood. Under agriculture crop sector accounts for the largest share of state's agricultural income. The balance sheet emerging from the agricultural development of the state brings into light the unfinished tasks in agricultural development for exploiting its potential. On the production front crop sector in general shows a sound picture with plantation segment comprising of rubber, tea, coffee, performing well till recently and the cash crops consisting of coconut, arecanut, pepper, cashew-nut also performing reasonably well. Food crops in general have suffered severe set back in production mainly on account of the drastic reduction in area under rice and tapioca. Thus over the years the state has transformed itself from a producer state to a consumer state with respect to major agricultural commodities mainly food grains. At the same time the state continues to remain as a major producer of commercial and cash crops like pepper, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, coconut, rubber, and cashew. In the production of spices and condiments India is the world's largest producer, consumer, and exporter with a share of 45 to 50 per cent of world's spice trade in volume and 25 per cent by value. 8.5 per cent of India's export earnings from agriculture and allied products come from spices which constitute 1.24 per cent of the total export earnings during 1999-2000'~. Kerala still holds near monopoly in the export of pepper (93 per cent) ginger

'" Cited In K.V Peter and E.V Nybe dominating global markets- The Hindu survey of Indian
Agriculture 2002 p- 87 to 95.

(90 per cent), cardamom (47 per cent) coffee (68 per cent) tea (43 per cent) turmeric (30 per cent) coir and coir products (90 per cent). Table 3.0 presents the cropping pattern of Kerala from 1960-61 to 2000-2001. The agricultural sector of the state has undergone drastic transformation. There is an incessant drift from rice based farming systems in the low lying areas to perennial mono cropping systems. The shift in cultivation area was mainly from rice to coconut and banana in the low lying areas and from tapioca to rubber in the midlands and uplands. development in the agricultural front is the decrease Another ~mportant in the size of holdings and hence the predominance of the small and marginal holdings leading to marginalisation of agriculture as a full time occupation. The per capita availability of land in the state is ust 0.12 hectares as per the census of India 200 1. The number and area of operational holdings in Kerala as per 1995-96 Agricultural census is presented in table 3.7. It is reported that
85 per cent of coconut, 79 per cent of arecanut, 76 per cent of pepper, 60 per

cent of cashew. 55 per cent of rubber, 45 per cent of coffee, 91 per cent of mango and 86 per cent of banana are grown in holdings of less than 2 hectares2'.


Cited in National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (2003), State's Focus Paper, Kerala 2003-2004.

Table 3.6
( 'ropping pattern

of Kerala 1960-61 to 2000-2001 decrease (-)

Food crops Rice Tapioca Pulses Totalfood

33.2 10.3 1.9 45.4

29.8 10.0 1.3 41.1

27.8 8.5 1.2 37.5

18.5 4.9 0.8 24.2

17.3 4.4 0.6 22.3

11.50 3.79 0.23 15.52

-21.70 -6.5 1 -1.67 -29.88

Annual cash crops Ginger 0.5 Turmeric 0.2 19 Banana + lantaln u 2 . 0

Sesamern + Cotton + Su arcane 4 Total . 4

0.4 0.2 1.7 1.5


Pepper Cashew 7.3 nut Total Plantation cro s Coffee Rubber Total 0.7 5.2 8.7 6.1 10.1 1.3 2.0 8.2 13.5 2.2 1.2 2.5 12.7 18.6 1.6 1.3 3.0 16.5 22.4 1.37 1.22 2.80 15.70 21.09 +O. 17 -0.38 +2.1 +10.5 +12.39 Note: The data were obtained from various issues of season and crop reportspublished by Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Kerala

Another significant indicator of the development of agriculture in Kerala is the variations in the consumption of fertilizers (NPK) which was 97,531 tonnes in 1980-81, increased to more than 3 lakh tones in the beginning of 1990's and declined to 1,73,205 tonnes in 2000-2001 recording a decline (-18 per cent ) over the previous year. The average fertilizer consumption per Ihaigross cropped area decreased to 57.7 kgms in 2000-2001 as against 71.19 Kgs in 1999-2000 which is not in the right direction as it is much lower than the national average of 89.90 kgm/ha2'. Table 3.7 Number and Area of operational Holdings in Kerala 1995-96- As per 1995-96 Agricultural Census Class and size of holdings Marginal operational holdings (lakhs) 59.18 69 93 Average size of holdings (area in hectares) 0.18 1.36 2.60 0.21 0.31 5.27 55.74
~~ ~ ~~

Area (lakhs hectares) 9.11 53.24 3.50 20.46 2.43 14.20 1.04 6.08 1.03 6.02 17.11 100

(1 to 2 ha) Semi-medium (2 t o 4 ha) Medium (4 to 10 ha)

p -



L Note: Figures in italics are percentage to total.

Source: Centre for Monitoring, Indian Economy, September 1998 India's agricultural Statstics, cited in Farm guide 2003-farm information Bureau Government of Kerala- Thiruvanathapuram. P . l l .

Based on the above discussions, over the years of agricultural transformation four parallel scenarios emerged in the farm front of Kerala.
1. Heterogeneous resource based multiple opportunity endowed crop-

livestock tree composed small and tiny homestead systems.

2. Homogenous single crop dominant small and medium sized crop-livestock

farming systems such as paddy based farming systems in Palakkad, Kuttanad, and Kole and coconut based farming systems in the coastal areas. 3. Mono- crop plantation crop sector of both farmer and estate management spread over the high ranges, highlands, and of late spilling over to the midlands.
4. Scattering of skill and labour intensive land and water based small

enterprises of an innovative nature requiring high levels of technology and capital support. The nature of and extent of interventions and support at the state level vary between them. In the above paragraphs we have examined the growth in Kerala agriculture and the changing trends. But it is well admitted that agriculture can prosper and creatively contribute towards the development of the state only if sufficient funds are allocated for the sectoral growth. Fund allocations are usually decided based on the Five Year Plan strategies. Hence, it is appropriate and timely to evaluate the priorities given for agricultural development in the state under the Five Year Plans.

3.5 Agricultural Development UNDER THE Five Year Plans - Strategy

Planning is an ongoing process in the overall development of the nation embrac~ngthe expectations of millions of people for their socioeconomic well being. The five year plans implemented in Kerala attached considerable importance to this sector for accelerating the growth of the economy as well as for employment generation. The sectoral strategy approved under the earlier plans laid emphasis on both vertical and horizontal growth in agriculture i.e., the emphasis was on both intensive and extensive cultivation. However from the Sixth Five Year plan onwards the focus is on vertical growth. The approach of the various five year plans projected for crop development shows certain general features and uniform pattern in outlook and content. They can be summarized as below.
a) Augmenting the yield of both food crops and commercial crops

development and better management. through ~nfrastructural b) Diversification of the production base by integrating all the land based activities with a view to maximize the income from the small holdings. c) Attain a high level of nutritional security by promoting the cultivation of fruits, vegetables and pulses. The following table 3.8 gives an account of the total outlays and expenditure for agricultural development under the various Five Year Plans.

Table 3.8 Outlays and expenditure on agriculture and allied activities in Kerala



j Period 'year

1lUd 1956-61 L I


142.54 1969-74 1974-79 258.40 752.84


Annual Annual

1990-91 1991-92 1992-97


5460.00 1100.18 1109.00 (319.28):

1997-2002 16100-00 2002-2007



* Allocation offer agriculture in 2002-2003 Kerala state budget for 2002-03.

Source: L ) Kerala State Planning Board, Economic Review (various issues), Thiruvanathapuram.

2) Farm guide (Various issues) Farm Information Bureau, Government of Kerala, Thiruvanathapuram.
Government support under the five year plans was mostly in the form of financial assistance for infrastructural development, popularization of new technologies, organizing the input delivery system, providing research and education support etc. The Ninth Five Year plan of Kerala and the Ninth Five

Year plan have suggested a paradigm shift in the approach for agricultural development. Under the new strategy the emphasis was on the optimal utilization of the biological resources in an integrated manner under a participatory approach through improvement in yield and quality. With the introduction of' decentralized planning and the launching of the people's, planning campaign, the responsibility for planning and implementation of development projects in agricultural sector along with the required resources have been transferred from the state to the local bodies to usher a new dynamism for revitalizing the agricultural sector of the state. In consequence the share of the plan outlay for agriculture and allied activities has been reduced from 13.76 per cent in the Eighth Five Year Plan to 6.46 per cent in the Ninth Five Year Plan and further to 4.62 per cent in Tenth Five Year Plan. The strategy is one of maximizing the income from a unit of land through a systems approach to resource use and management integrating crop livestock and fisheries. The focus will be on ensuring the livelihood security to the population depending on agriculture, rather than enhancing commodity production, especially the income base of the marginal, small farmers and agricultural labourers. For achieving this the natural strengths and advantages emanating from the favourable resource endowments of the state has to be strengthened. Further the competitive edge of the state's agriculture has to be sharpened through improvement in quality and reduction in cost. The state level machinery will have to assume a different role under the new dispensation of Panchayat Raj and play primarily that of a facilitating role which enable the local bodies in discharging their responsibility more

effectively. To achieve this a specific approach and strategy has been adopted under the Tenth Five Year Plan which includes, b) Shift from crop based approach to an area based approach related to farming systems and homesteads. c) Scientific delineation of agro-ecological zones within two years. d) Re-orientation of extension services to utilize the modem

commun~cation technology to help the farmer become competitive. e) Improvement of the delivery system to extend modem technologies and practices like organic farming and appropriate biotechnology.
f) Value addition as the key element of the agricultural development

strategy. 3.6 Major Challenges of Kerala Agriculture Agriculture is intended to become not merely an efficient, eco-friendly production system capable of meeting the basic demands of the rapidly increasing population, but it has to become a major powerful instrument for a comprehensive socio-economic transformation of the state including improvement in the quality of life of every individual. The agricultural economy in Kerala in the millennium and post WTO regime has to face many challenges. To meet these challenges a development perspective different from that pursued in the past has to be evolved. Agriculture in Kerala is at cross roads. Production and yield of all important crops probably with the sole exemption of rubber is either stagnant or on the decline. Even in the case of rubber the yield realized is far below the

potential. Thus the vital sector is losing its dynamism and resilience it had in the past. Most of the crops are affected by diseases like root wilt decease of coconut, presence of coconut mite (mandari), quick and slow wilt decease of pepper, bunchy top decease of banana etc. Value addition and product diversification is not taking place to the desired level due to the inadequacies of agro-processing facilities. Wide fluctuations in prices have affected most of the crops. Integration of the domestic economy with that of the global economy and its subsequent commitments made to international community via the WTO commitments have adversely affected the prices and income of the farming community of the state especially of the farmers producing arecanut, pepper. coconut, rubber, tea, coffee, etc. The fall in prices now being experienced is all pervasive and as a result even the advantage of mixed cropping followed by the state of Kerala in the form of high degree of resilience to meet adverse conditions has dissipated. High cost of production due to higher wages and high cost of land is another limiting factor. Thus agriculture in Kerala is facing a serious crisis with the maladies of low yleld, high cost of production, and increasing international competition resulting in lower prices and farm income. The review of the agriculture made in this chapter helped to identify the basic features, issues and problems of Kerala agriculture.
3.7 Issues and Problems of Kerala Agriculture

Basic and unique features of Kerala agriculture are: 1. Predominance of cash and commercial crops

2. Market oriented agriculture with emphasis in export or import

3. Wide variety of crops - seasonal, annual and perennial

4. Preponderance of perennial crops with long gestation period and heavy

5. Prevalence of mixed farming and intercropping

6. Existence of high value spice crops

7. Dispersed settlement pattern with homestead cultivation and backyard

system of livestock keeping.

8. High pressure of population on land resulting in tiny holdings 9. co-existence of well organized plantation sector, unorganized small

farming sector and subsistence food crop sector and 10.Emergence of large number of part-time farmers and increasing number of absentee farmers.
25 Based both on the findings of various studiesz2,reports23,task force24,

and on our own analysis of the agricultural scenario of the state a number of basic problems and important issues were identified which include,

" Pillai P.P (1994) Kerala Economy- Four decades of development, Institute Planning and
Research John Matthai Foundation University of Calicut. Applied Econom~cs K.P. Kannan K. Pushpangadhan (1990) Dissecting Agricultural stagnation in Kerala An analysis across crops seasons and regions working paper No: 238 Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvanthapuram 2 Report of the Swaminathan Commission on Kerala Agriculture (2003). ' 24 Government of Kerala, Report of the Taskforce on Agricultural Infrastructure 1997-2002 I th Five Year Plan, State Planning Board X '5 Government of Kerala, Report of the Taskforce on Field Crops 1997-2002 IXth Five Year Plan, State Planning Board.

1. Failure to formulate a policy and strategy suitable for Kerala

Agriculture and to design and develop appropriate technology and infrastructure to meet the special requirements of small farmers.
2. Absence of scientific and systematic crop planning consistent with land

capability and ecological sustainability.

3. Damage to the ecological foundations essential for sustained

agricultural advance such as land, water, forests, and bio diversity.
4. Low level of investment both public and private.

5. Mismatch between production and post harvest technologies and

between production and market demand due to lack of marketing and processing facilities and linkages with industries.
6. Lack of cost effectiveness and efficiency of production, the basic

principal of globalization resulting in an unequal trade bargain in the post W 1 0 regime.

7. Absence of systematic programmes for the replanting of perennial

plantation crops.
8. The fiscal policy of the state is not conducive to agricultural

9. Increasing incidence of pests and deceases for crops

10.Fast and continuous decline in the size of holdings and emergence of large number of part time and absentee farmers. 11.Failure to evolve a price support mechanism to ensure stable and remunerative prices.

12. Emergence of new social values downgrading agriculture and farming

community in social status and prestige. These threats, issues and problems both internal and external can be challenged and solved through integrated attention to regulation, education and social mobilization through Panchayati Raj institutions, restructured research strategies, farmer owned and controlled extension services, input delivery system and technical resource centers for monsoon management and water security etc. Measures have to be adopted and implemented by the government in this direction to recognize and develop agriculture as a worth while occupation, capable of ensuring a decent living with dignity and social status to farmers. The vitality and dynamism of Kerala agriculture has to be restored and regained through the judicious use of scarce resources of land, water, rural manpower and technology with focus on increasing production and yleld in a planned manner. Efforts must also be made to optimize farm income through value addition. Possibilities of economic incentives, massive rehabilitation programme for coconut , cashew, pepper and social security measures may be explored. Thus the outlook of the future of the economy of the state would depend largely on the measures that would be taken to sustain the tempo of development achieved in the agricultural sector and to make agriculture globally competitive. For this a supportive agricultural policy and public and private investment in potential areas viz. minor irrigation, horticulture, storagelmarket yards, water shed development, agro-processing,

intercropping, multi-storied cropping, organic farming, mixed farming etc need to be enhanced. One of the ingredients for agricultural development is the timely

availability of agricultural credit. Realising the importance of agricultural credit the Brit~shgovernment and subsequently the government of India appointed various committees and commissions with the sole purpose of strengthening the agricultural credit delivery system. In the second chapter of this thesis we made a comprehensive look into the related

commission/committee reports. In the succeeding chapter an attempt is made to examine the institutional framework for agricultural credit-specifically to Kerala state and also to assess the flow of agricultural credit in the state.