‘Rice bowl’ will loose 30,000 hectares if conversion legalised

Farm workers on their way to work on a rainy day at a paddy field near Palakkad. A file photo: K. K. Mustafah.  

Palakkad, known as the ‘rice bowl’ of Kerala, will loose 30,000 hectares of paddy land immediately out of its existing 87,511 hectares if the conversion of paddy land converted till 2005 is legalized.

As per the latest Agriculture Statistics of State Statistics Department of Kerala Government the paddy was cultivated only in 87,511 hectares in Palakkad during 2010-11.

The paddy land kept fallow was 17,048 hectares earlier and another 12,837 was added during 2009-10 and 2010-11.

Hence, if the current trend of decline in paddy cultivation continued and the Government move succeeded in legalizing paddy land converted till 2005 in another two decades the entire paddy land in Palakkad will vanish, said T.M. Vamana Rao, an agriculture statistics expert and former official of Kerala Statistics Department.

Paddy cultivation in Palakkad had shown an alarming decline of over 47 per cent over the years, he said.

In 1970-71, paddy was cultivated in 1,82,621 hectares in the district, with production of 3,18,925 tonnes.

In 1980-81 it was 1,83,634 hectares producing 3,81,561 tonnes.

In 1990-91, acreage under paddy area recorded an alarming decline with just 1,45,687 hectares with the production tally of 3,24,907 tonnes.

In 2000-01, the acreage further shrunk by 11,870 hectares and production declined to 2,62,173 tonnes.

Thus, there has been a decline of 47.3 per cent in the total area of cultivation and 26 per cent in production of paddy in the district.

Production did not decline in proportion to the decline in area of cultivation due to increased productivity, said Vamana Rao.

This apprehension on the statistics of the fast declining paddy cultivation in the district was shared by leading farmers and their organizations.

A leading farmer and former M.L.A of Chittur K. Krishnankutty has said that “the new law to legalise all paddy conversions till 2005 will result in loosing of the entire paddy land in the State in a decade or two.”

“If the law is implemented, Palakkad will loose nearly half of its existing 87,000 hectares of paddy in no time”, he said.

He said that this will be disastrous and will affect the food security of the State especially when the alarming decline of paddy cultivation in the neighboring States of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh which supplies rice to Kerala. So if Kerala is not able to produce at least the rice required for one meal a day it will affect the food security of the State in emergency situations.

Meanwhile Muthalamthode Mani, general secretary of Deesheeya Karshaka Samjam has said that “it is not the farmers who are converting paddy land but the real estate mafia who buys paddy land from farmers at cheap rate and converts them as house plots and sells it for fancy price. The farmers are forced to sell it due to the loss in cultivation of paddy. So the government should take steps to make paddy cultivation profitable so that no farmer will sell his paddy land.”

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 2:59:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/rice-bowl-will-loose-30000-hectares-if-conversion-legalised/article3661990.ece

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