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Cropping pattern in Kerala

Gross cropped area in Kerala has declined from 29,33,000 hectares in 1970-71 to 25,79,000 hectares in 2017-18, registering a decline of about 12 per cent.

As of 2017-18, the gross cropped area in Kerala stands at 25,79,000 hectares while the net sown area is 20,40,000 hectares. However, the gross irrigated area stands at only 21 per cent of the gross cropped area and has increased at a very slow pace from 3,81,000 hectares (13 per cent of GCA) in 1980-81 to 5,40,000 hectares (21 per cent of GCA) in 2017-18. The slow growth in irrigated area has a major bearing on production and productivity in agriculture sector in the state.

The total number of operational holdings in Kerala is 68,31,000 of which 96% ie., 65,80,000 operational holdings fall in the marginal landholding category. On the other hand, in terms of area operated, marginal landholdings constitute only 59%, while landholdings in the size range of 1-1.99 ha constitute 19%. Operational holdings under the size class of 2.00 to 10 ha and above, constitute only 1 per cent of the total landholdings whereas in terms of area operated, they constitute 15 per cent of the total area under operational holdings in the state.

The total cropped area of the State has been declining consistently, from 30 lakh hectare in 2000 to 25.79 lakh hectare in 2017-18. Net sown area has recorded a slight decline of 8.64 percent, and the area sown more than once has declined by 30.29 percent. Current fallows have decreased 7.5 percent whereas the “fallows other than current fallows” as well as “cultivable waste land” have recorded an increase of 63.38 percent and 71 percent respectively. Thus the land that is fit for cultivation but is not being cultivated is on the rise signalling the tendency of people to keep land fallow for various reasons.

Share of agriculture and allied sectors in GVA and GSVA

The share of agriculture and allied sectors in the total Gross State Value Added has been declining consistently, in consonance with the all-India trends. In Kerala, over the years, service sector has grown in importance, while agriculture sector and its role in value added and generation of employment has declined consistently. The share of agriculture and allied sectors in total GVA (India) and GSVA (Kerala) over the period from 2012-13 to 2017-18 is given in Table below:

Sl No. Year Share of agriculture and allied sectors in total GVA (India) Share of agriculture and allied sectors in total GSVA (Kerala)
1 2012-13 17.8 13.77
2 2013-14 17.7 12.37
3 2014-15 16.5 11.92
4 2015-16 15.4 10.74
5 2016-17 15.3 10.26 (P
6 2017-18 NA 10.04 (Q)

Crop-wise area under principal crops

There has been a steady decline in the gross area under food crops in Kerala between 1970-71 and 2017-18. Over time, the state has shifted to cultivation of commercial crops/plantation crops and spices on a larger scale. This is evident from Chart 1.8.

Source: Economic Review 2018, GoK

While the gross area under rice cultivation has declined to almost one-fifth of the area cultivated between 1970-71 and 2017-18, the area cultivated under rubber has trebled and that under coconut has increased, although not at a considerable pace. The area under pulses has registered the highest rate of decline and at present, only 2,000 hectares are under pulses cultivation. The area under rice and pulses which in 1970-71 constituted 31 per cent of the Gross Cropped Area, has come down to 7.4 per cent in 2017-18. Since pulses are a rich source of protein and are water-efficient, promoting cultivation of pulses would augur well for nutrition security and food security of the state. Of late, experiments such as labour banks have taken shape, in an attempt to pool in workers to cultivate fallow lands and leased areas under cultivation, which may have been responsible for the slight increase in the area under cultivation under rice between 2016-17 and 2017-18. The experiment has been active in the districts of Palakkad and Thrissur, which are among the major rice-growing regions in the state. Whereas on the other hand, gross cropped area under rubber cultivation has increased from 6 per cent of the GCA in 1970-71 to 21 per cent in 2017-18.

Table 1.2 shows the production of principal crops and the changes that have happened over almost half a century in the state.

Table 1.2: Production of principal crops (‘000 tonnes)

Crop/year 1970-71 1990-91 2012-13 2016-17 2017-18
Rice 1298 1087 509 436 521
All pulses 13 17 3 2 2
Rubber 88 308 800 540 541
Coconut$ 3981 4232 5799 5379 5230
Pepper 25 47 46 34 38
Cardamom 1 3 10 17 18
Ginger 20 46 22 20 19

Source: Economic Review 2018, GoK

Source: Economic Review 2018, GoK

The production of rice has decreased in consonance with the decrease in area cultivated. The production of pulses has remained stagnant over the immediate preceding years. In the case of rubber, production and productivity had peaked and the price situation in international markets had turned favourable during 2000s. However, Kerala’s share in national rubber production has come down from 92% to a decade ago to 69.66% owing to increase in cultivation of rubber in non-traditional regions such as North-East.


Agriculture in Kerala is mostly dependent on rainfall. Following the great floods of 2018, rains spread havoc in 2019 in the northern districts of Kerala during the South-West Monsoon. The pre-monsoon rainfall received during the period from March- May 2019 was categorised as “deficient” by IMD. The rainfall received during this period was 55 per cent less than the normal rainfall of 379.7 mm as against 169.6 mm. Wayanad was the only district reported to have received normal rainfall, although the rainfall was 2 per cent less than the normal levels.

Chart 1.9: Rainfall in Kerala during South-West Monsoon (mm)

Source: Indian Meteorological Department

The actual rainfall received in Kerala during Southwest monsoon (June to Sept 2019) was 2,309.8 mm as against the normal rainfall of 2,049.2 mm, which was 13 per cent in excess of the normal rainfall. However, it was categorised under the normal category. As per data from IMD website, barring Idukki and Wayanad, all districts in Kerala received rainfall higher than the normal rainfall. The rainy season in Kerala in 2019 was marked by incidents of landslides and destruction of land, property and loss of human lives, in the northern districts of Kerala, particularly in Malappuram and Wayanad. Kozhikode and Palakkad reported rainfall excess of 35 per cent and 39 per cent over the normal rainfall. During the period from October to December, rainfall in Kerala at 637 mm was 30 per cent in excess of the normal rainfall of 490.8 mm. Kannur, Ernakulam and Kasaragod received rainfall in “large excess” compared to the normal levels.

Livestock sector

Livestock sector is an important sub-sector of the agricultural sector of the economy. It provides self-employment opportunity to unemployed in rural areas and also acts as an additional source of income to farmers engaged in cultivation of crops. The progress in livestock sector is bound to lead to increased incomes and a better standard of living for rural families. At the all-India level, the share of livestock sector in total GVA of agriculture sector was to the extent of 26.2 per cent in 2016-17 at constant prices, while in Kerala, the share of livestock in GSVA from agriculture sector is close to 27 per cent, slightly higher than the all-India level.

As per the 19th Livestock census (2012), the livestock population in the State is 27.35 lakh. It is 23 percent less as compared to previous census. The primary reason for this is the decline in the population of cattle and goats. As per the 20th livestock census, the poultry population of Kerala is 29.8 million, reflecting a 23 per cent increase over the poultry population of 24.3 lakh as per the 19th livestock census.

Major livestock products in Kerala

Milk, meat and egg are the major livestock products in Kerala.


Among the milk producing States in the country, Kerala ranks 14th, with a share of 1.5 percent of the production. The production of milk increased from 25.20 lakh MT in 2016-17 to 25.76 lakh MT in 2017-18. The per-capita availability of milk in Kerala declined from 202 gm per day in 2016-17 to 192 gm per day in 2017-18, which is just above half of the national average per capita availability of milk of 375 gm per day. Kerala Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (MILMA) is one of the most important agencies for milk procurement in the state. During 2017-18, except in Ernakulam, Palakkad and Wayanad, sales of milk exceeded procurement. The shortfall between milk procurement and sales was met by arranging milk from state milk federations of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and purchase of skimmed milk powder. In order to facilitate increased production of milk in the state, several programmes are being undertaken in the state such as:

a.   Special Livestock Breeding Programme

b.   Involvement of Kerala Livestock Development Board in production and distribution of frozen semen

c.   Promotion of dairy zones under the scheme, ‘Commercial Dairy Milk and Milk Shed Development Programme’

d.   Focus on Fodder and feed production

e.   Emergency veterinary care services, animal health care services and production of vaccines for animals


The total production of egg in the country in 2017-18 stood at 9,520 crore and has been steadily on the rise since 2000-01. Per-capita availability of egg has also been on the rise steadily with the figure in 2017-18 at 74 per annum. The largest producer of eggs is Andhra Pradesh (18.7 per cent of total production) with a per capita availability of 341 eggs per annum, which is significantly higher than the national average. Kerala ranks 10th in India in terms of egg production. The total egg production in the State was 2.23 billion eggs in the year 2012-13 and continued to rise and reached 2.50 billion in the year 2014-15. Since, then it declined to 2.44 billion in 2015-16 and further to 2.34 billion in 2016-17. The per-capita availability of egg stands at 64 eggs per annum in Kerala (2017-18). (Source: Economic Review 2018)


Kerala is the 8th largest meat producing state in the country, accounting for 6.1 per cent of the meat produced in India. Out of the total meat produced, 38.8 per cent is poultry meat, 33.95 per cent is sourced from cattle and 20.99 per cent from buffalo. Goat and pig contributes 4.78 per cent and 1.47 per cent of the meat production in the state. (Source: Economic Review 2018)


Kerala occupies a very important place in the fisheries map of the country. India ranks second in terms of inland fish production and sixth in marine captured fish (Source: Economic Review 2018). While the total fish production in India in 2016-17 (provisional) was 114.09 lakh tonnes, in Kerala, the production stood at 6.76 lakh tonnes. The total fish production in Kerala during 2016-17 was 6.67 lakh tonnes, of which marine accounted for 4.88 lakh tonnes and inland fish production was 1.88 lakh tonnes. Fisheries and aquaculture contributes around 8.5 percent of the GSVA from the primary sector which is of much significance to the State economy.