Agrarian economy poses a serious challenge to planners

Kerala has ceased to be an agrarian economy with the contribution of agriculture to the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) coming down over the past two decades.

The agriculture sector in the State recorded a negative growth of 1.3 per cent during the 11 Plan period (2007-2012). Its share in the GSDP dropped to 9.1 per cent in 2011-12 compared to 26.9 per cent in 1990-91.

At the same time, a large section of the rural population is still dependent on agriculture for employment and livelihood, posing a serious challenge to planners and administrators.

The Economic Review, 2012, which was released on the eve of presentation of the State Budget, says that reviving the agriculture sector will require a quantum increase in productivity from the current levels. This, in turn, requires technological breakthrough given the limited supply of land and other structural rigidities; addressing low level of mechanisation, shortage of irrigation facilities, treatment of soil acidity and multiple nutrient deficiencies; plant health management; remunerative prices and poor extension services.

The Review notes that growth performance of agriculture sector in the State has been fluctuating with a positive growth of 1.8 per cent in the Tenth Plan period. Quick estimate of 2011-12 indicated a negative growth of 1.6 per cent over the previous year. The provisional estimate of agriculture income showed negative growth of 4.5 per cent during 2010-11.

It observes that the crippling growth rate in agriculture as against a reasonably robust annual growth rate of GSDP is a cause of concern. The drop in its contribution to the GSDP indicates a shift from agrarian economy towards a service sector dominated economy.

Although the share of agriculture GDP (agriculture and animal husbandry alone) has declined in almost all States, agriculture is an important contributor to GSDP in some States in 2011-12.

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