MONOCROP CLIFF

Land re­form and trade lib­er­al­i­sa­tion played a ma­jor role in the shift in crop­ping pat­tern

Down to Earth - - COVER STORY -

Around the 1970s, the state started im­ple­ment­ing the Ker­ala Land Re­forms Act of 1967.The Act put a ceil­ing of 6 ha on the land a per­son can own, but ex­empted plan­ta­tions. This prompted many to con­vert their land to plan­ta­tions. Many paddy farm­ers started grow­ing co­conut on their fields, which were later con­verted into rub­ber plan­ta­tions.

State agri­cul­ture data shows since the 1970s, farm­ers’ with­drawal from rice cul­ti­va­tion has in­creased.In the last four decades, area un­der paddy has re­duced by 76 per cent—from 875,000 ha in 1970 to 208,000 ha in 2012.

The cri­sis wors­ened with the in­tro­duc­tion of the lib­er­al­i­sa­tion poli­cies in the 1990s. The ini­tial few years af­ter In­dia’s en­try into the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion (wto) in 1995 as a sig­na­tory to the World­Trade Agree­ment, saw a phe­nom­e­nal in­crease in ex­port prices of many plan­ta­tion crops. Lead­ers of the Ker­ala Congress, in­clud­ing the state’s present Fi­nance Min­is­ter K M Mani, praised the Cen­tre’s ne­olib­eral po­lices. But the heat of the global com­pe­ti­tion was felt within a few years—rub­ber price started slid­ing for the first time in 1997 fol­low­ing large-scale im­port of cheap nat­u­ral rub­ber. Other cash crops in which Ker­ala has a sub­stan­tial stake, namely, tea, cof­fee, rub­ber and car­damom, a lso had to com­pete with low-cost im­ports.

The Land Re­forms Act put a ceil­ing of 6 hectares on the land a per­son can own, but ex­empted plan­ta­tions from it. Many peo­ple took ad­van­tage of this lee­way and con­verted their farms into plan­ta­tions

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