Kerala has long been a consumer state, depending on neighbours to meet its food requirements. Though the state has unique and diverse agro-climatic conditions in various regions, which enable it to cultivate many types of crops, its agricultural legacy is not on a par with other states.
Express takes a look at the agricultural scenario in the state.
The production of coffee in Kerala registered a slight increase from 63,476 tonnes in 2016-17 to 66,465 tonnes in 2017-18, with no change in area under cultivation.
Among the coffee-producing states, Kerala stands second, next to Karnataka, contributing 21% of national production. Karnataka accounts for around 71%, and Tamil Nadu 5%.
Though there is a slight decline in the area under cultivation in Kerala in the last one decade, the production has not seen any dip.
But the average yield from one hectare is not in tune with the national average, which is higher than Kerala. Arecanut is mainly grown in Karnataka, Kerala and Assam.
Although coconut is one of the principal crops, its cultivation in the state has not been encouraging over the years.
Kerala’s share in terms of area as well as production, which stood at 69.58% (area) and 69.52% (production) in 1960-61, declined to 37.6% and 31.9% respectively in 2016-17.
Among the four main coconut-producing states, Kerala stands first with respect to area and production, but in productivity, it is fourth, next to Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
The area under cultivation and production of sugarcane in Kerala is very less compared to other major sugarcane producing states. In Kerala, sugarcane is cultivated in only 1,000 hectares, while it is 22,34,000 hectares in Uttar Pradesh.
A major food crop, paddy occupies 7.3% of the total cultivated area in Kerala. The state is 11th in rice production in the country. Palakkad, Alappuzha, Thrissur and Kottayam account for about 79.6 per cent of the total area of rice in the state.
These districts contribute 81 per cent of the total rice production in the state. India is the largest rice-producing country in the world after China, with a record rice production of over 115 million tonnes.
The leading rice-producing states are West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Assam and Haryana.
Kerala’s national share in cashew farming is at 3.8% (area) and 10.79% (production) in 2017-18. In the last one decade, there has been a considerable decline in both area and production. The production, which stood at 42,000 tonnes in 2008-09, declined to 25,000 tonnes in 2017-18, with a decline in the area under cultivation from 53,000 hectares to 39,000 hectares during the same period.
Among the cashew growing states in India, Maharashtra stands first, accounting for 33% of the total production, followed by Andhra Pradesh (14%).
Kanthalloor in Idukki is the only place in the state where apple is cultivated commercially. However, it is yet to make any significant presence in the fruit markets. Though apple is a late entrant to Kanthalloor, orange, guava, gooseberry, blackberry, egg fruit, peach, plum, passion fruit, pear, tamarillo etc are cultivated there due to the cool weather. It is estimated that around 5 hectares is under apple cultivation in Kanthalloor.
Though India is the second-largest producer of vegetables in the world after China, Kerala has been leaning on neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to meet its daily vegetable and fruit demands as it is a consumer state. Vegetable production in the state has increased from 6.5 lakh tonnes in 2016 to 9.5 lakh tonnes in 2019. Similarly, the area under vegetable cultivation has more than doubled from 42,477 hectares in 2012-13.
The Kerala government in 2018 declared jackfruit as its official fruit with an aim of promoting ‘Kerala jackfruit’ as a brand in markets across the country and abroad, showcasing its organic and nutritious qualities. Though around 32 crore jackfruits are produced in the state annually, around 30 per cent of them get wasted.
The Mauritius variety dominates Kerala farms. Of the roughly 18,000 hectares under cultivation, about 95% is under the variety and the remaining is MD2 variety.