A sharp fall in the production of rice and the area under paddy cultivation are indicative of the serious challenges faced by Kerala, the Economic Review for 2011, which was released here on Saturday, reveals.
While production of rice showed a decline of 75,598 metric tonnes over the last year, the area under paddy cultivation went down by 20,828 hectares.
Coconut production fell by 388 million nuts, arecanut 16854 MT, and tea 703 MT. The production of tapioca registered a decrease of 165,303 MT and cashew 1,066 MT during the same period.
The data on the land-use pattern in the State shows that the area under rice cultivation had come down to 2,13,185 ha. from 2,34,013 ha. in 2009-10, reflecting a fall in rice volume by 13 per cent to touch 5.22 lakh MT from 5.98 lakh the previous year. The productivity also went down from 2,557 to 2,452 kg/ ha.
The land under food-crop farming (rice, pulses, and tapioca) went down to 8.13 per cent of the gross cropped area from the 11.74 per cent in the previous year. The area under coconut cultivation came down by 8145 ha.
Cardamom, turmeric, and cashew also recorded reduction in the area under cultivation while pepper, ginger, banana, other plantains, arecanut, coffee, tea, and rubber showed a considerable gain in acreage.
The review notes that the enactment of the Paddy Land and Wetland Conservation Act and the increase of the procurement price to Rs.15 per kg had failed to stem the decrease in production of rice and the acreage.
The productivity-level of coconut in Kerala also reveals a sharp decline. At 12.3 per cent, the productivity in the State is lower than the national average.
The provisional estimate of agricultural income in the State registered a negative growth of 0.78 per cent over the previous year. The share of agriculture and allied sectors in the gross State domestic product fell to 10.59 per cent, indicating a continuous decline in Kerala.
The review notes that Kerala is currently producing less than 15 per cent of the State's requirement of paddy. During the past five years, the cost of cultivation has doubled owing to increased labour charges and cost of seeds and other inputs.
The total milk production in Kerala touched 26.43 lakh tonnes in 2010-11, up from 25.37 lakh tonnes in the previous year. Egg production also went up from 1,633 million in 2009-10 to 1,685.6 million in 2010-11, registering an increase of 3.22 per cent. While poultry meat production increased by 4.33 per cent, meat other than poultry went up by 6.24 per cent.
The decrease in the area under paddy cultivation has impacted the livestock sector as well, leading to a drastic reduction in the availability of straw for feeding cattle.