Uncertainties of the global market and the atomisation of agricultural land have left farmers in Kerala grappling with livelihood issues, even as land sharks threaten to gobble up the fragmented farmlands in the State, K.N. Harilal, Associate Professor, Centre for Development Studies (CDS), said here on Saturday.

Participating in a panel discussion marking the conclusion of the three-day Kerala Environment Congress (KEC 2012) organised by the Centre for Environment and Development (CED) and the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, he said continuous pressure on land prices, especially speculation in the property market, was proving to be a major constraint on agricultural development in Kerala.

“The dwindling size of agricultural landholdings in Kerala has weakened collective action by farmers. The failure of State support mechanisms for easy credit, subsidies, and procurement worsened the situation,” he said.

“Land sharks, who buy up chunks of land at high prices and put up fencing around the periphery, have emerged as a new threat to farmers who work on their land. A recent study conducted by the CDS found that the fencing poses a hindrance for farming activities in the neighbourhood,” he said.

Dr. Harilal said the only option before the government was to impose a blanket ban on conversion of paddy land in the interests of food security and environment conservation.