Small farm holdings (less than four hectares) have multiplied further between 2005 and 2011 with 85 % farmers cultivating less than four hectares compared with 83.2 % in 2006, says the latest Agricultural Census for 2010-11.
Such small and fragmented holdings are a slightly larger proportion of cultivated area with the percentage going up to 44 from 41 earlier. High GDP growth and alternative employment avenues created in industry, construction and other services in this time have not drawn the people away from farms. The proportion of medium and large land holders — those owning more than 10 hectares — has fallen from 5.78 % in 2006 to 4.9 % in 2011.
Medium and large land holders now cultivate 32 % land holdings, against 34.09 % six years ago. An increasing fragmentation of holdings – a result of natural population growth and inadequate non-farm employment growth – has plagued Indian agriculture, as it does not allow farmers to reap economies of scale and invest in mechanisation.
The average size of operational holdings in India had come down to 1.23 hectare in 2006. The latest data show a further reduction to 1.16 hectares for 2011. The average holding in Punjab and Haryana is 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 Agriculture Census also showed that total operational land holdings had risen by 6.6 % to 13.8 crore as against 12.9 crore in 2005. 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, 35 % holders plough 69.11 % cultivated area while in Haryana, 14.87 % land holders operate on 55.08 % land.