The number of small farm holdings (less than four hectares) has risen further between 2005-06 and 2010-11 with 85 per cent of farmers claiming in 2010-11 to be cultivating areas of less than four hectares in size compared with 83.2 per cent in 2005-06.

Such small and fragmented holdings also now account for a slightly larger proportion of cultivated area with the percentage going up to 44 from 41 earlier. .

This emerges from the Government’s latest Agricultural Census for 2010-11. .

High GDP growth and alternative employment avenues created in industry, construction and various other services in the past five-to-six years have not really drawn the necessary number of people away from farms. The proportion of medium and large land holders — those owning more than 10 ha — has fallen from 5.78 per cent in 2005-06 to 4.90 per cent in 2010-11.

Medium and large land holders now cultivate 32 per cent of the land holdings, against 34.09 per cent six years ago.

fragmentation

Increased fragmentation of holdings – an outcome of natural population growth as well as inadequate growth in off-farm employment opportunities – has been the bane of Indian agriculture, as it inhibits the ability of farmers to reap economies of scale and invest in mechanisation.

The average size of operational holdings in India has come down steadily from 2.28 hectare in 1970-71 to 1.33 hectare in 2000-01 and 1.23 hectare in 2005-06. The latest data show a further reduction to 1.16 hectares for 2010-11.

The average holding in Punjab and Haryana stood at 3.77 ha and 2.25 ha, respectively, while in Kerala and West Bengal it stood at 0.22 ha and 0.77 ha, respectively.

The first phase of the 9th Agriculture Census also showed that total operational land holdings had risen by 6.6 per cent to 13.8 crore, against 12.9 crore in 2005-06.

Also, there was a marginal rise in the operated area from 158.32 million ha to 159.18 m ha in 2010-11.

The increase in area is attributed to Jharkhand’s participation in the Census for the first time.

The number of marginal small and medium operational land holdings has increased to 11.706 crore against 10.76 crore in 2005-06.

At the same time, the medium and large land holdings have shrunk to 68.56 lakh from 74.71 lakh six years ago. In Punjab, the 35 per cent of holders operate 69.11 per cent of the cultivated area.

In Haryana 14.87 per cent of the land holders operate on 55.08 per cent of the land.

Vishwanath.kulkarni@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 6, 2012)
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