Thiruvananthapuram: The rapid conversion of large swathes of land used for paddy cultivation is becoming an increasing cause of concern in Kerala.
In the past 32 years, 6.25 lakh hectares of paddy fields vanished in the state, as per data provided by the Agriculture Department.
During 1955-56, the state had 7.60 lakh hectares of paddy. In 1965-66, the state had a record paddy crop. In 1970-71, the state had a record land area of 8.80 lakh hectare under paddy crop.
Now, there is paddy on 2.05 lakh hectare alone.
From 1995, paddy cultivation turned non-profitable in India. In the year 2000, paddy was cultivated on 2.5 lakh hectare but it reduced to 1.92 hectare in 2016.
The paddy cultivation was affected badly due to the Ockhi cyclone of 2017, the dry spell of the same year, and the floods of 2018 and 19, as per the Agriculture Department.
Paddy cultivation is mostly done now in the districts of Palakkad, Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Thrissur, and Malappuram.
Kerala needs 40 lakh tonnes of rice annually but the production accounts for only 8 lakh tonnes. Kerala now gets its rice from Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh.
In Kerala, the most grown crop is coconut, on 7.7 lakh hectare. Rubber comes second, 5.5 lakh hectare. In the past 20 years, rubber cultivation expanded to one lakh hectare, as per official data.
Vegetable farming has also seen an increase. The area under vegetable growing is 96,000 ha; arecanut 95,000 ha; pepper 85,000 ha; coffee 85,000 ha; tapioca 70,000 ha.