15,000 square miles of land live a population of some 24 million
people with an overall density of 1,600 persons per square mile.
About one-sixth is forest; of the rest, most of the land is cultivated
often with maximum efficiency according to current Indian standards.
Rice still dominates,being the staple food of the masses. Rice
cultivation is becoming extremely expensive due to high wages
and high price of fertilizers; often cheap rice can be purchased
from neighboring AndhraPradesh and Tamil Nadu,Kuttanad, the rich
alluvial coastland is no longer considered the granary of Kerala;
soil is no longer fertile; and labor troubles and socialist land-reforms
have driven hard-working farmers out of business. Farmers are
paying increasing attention to cultivating tea, coffee, pepper,
cardamom, and rubber in the High Ranges and the middle laterite
hill region. After rice, coconut is the chief crop; the coconut
acreage is nearly equal to that of rice. Next to rice as the essential
food. coconut palm is the basis of economy for a very large number
of people. The chief products of coconut are coir, copra, oil,
and oil-cake. Coconut is used as a staple article of diet in meat
curries, vegetable curries, and pastries. The coconut-leaves are
frequently used as thatch, for the manufacture of brooms, baskets,
umbrellas, tattis (screens kept soaked to cool rooms), fans, and
firewood. A large number of cottage industrial workers are employed
in the production of coir-yarns (rope) which will later be used
to make coco-mats (coir-mats).
or Cassava is the next important crop which like potato has saved
millions of people from starvation during times of famine; people
eat less tapioca these days. Spices like cardamom, pepper, gingelly,
cloves, and ginger are important peasant-produced cash crops.
Nearly every homestead still has its plantains (banana), areca-nut
palms, and mango trees. In the past ten years the Gulf countries
of the Middle East have become avid buyers of Kerala's agricultural
products, so much so, greedy farmers ship the best of all their
products including livestock abroad leaving the natives with only
the second best produce. The cashew industry, once the monopoly
of Kerala, is still going strong in spite of stiff competition
from China and Africa.
plays a big part in Kerala's cultural and commercial life. Motorization
of boats, better storage, and more efficient marketing have been
undertaken during the past twenty-five years. They all have helped
the fishing industry. Because of the lack of minerals, coal, and
iron ore, Kerala can never become an industrial state like Maharashtra,Gujarat,
and Punjab. However, the abundance of forest products, availability
of electric power, efficient supply of water, and the abundance
of skilled workers have attracted many industries to Kerala, notwithstanding
the businessman's fear of the ever-looming specter of Communism
that Kerala flaunts.
for local clay and laterite, the only minerals of Kerala are ilmenite,
monazite, and zircon sands on the beaches from Quilon to Kovalam.
These contain 8-10% thorium oxide which is of strategic importance
in relation to atomic power. Titanium from ilmenite and cerium
from monazite are essential in some electrical and chemical industries
-- for electrodes, tracer bullets, and benzine synthesis, among
others. The Titanium Plant near Trivandrum is a profitable undertaking.
The Keltron Plant that manufactures radios and television sets
makes Kerala's name synonymous with T.V. The Space Research Center
of Thumba is one of its kind in all of India. In short, like India,
Kerala also has entered the world of high technology and the age
of space exploration.
major export of Kerala today is its skilled workers and college
graduates who go to most parts of India and abroad to places like
the Gulf countries. When immigration to Europe and America opened
up in the fifties and sixties, a large number of educated Keralites
went abroad seeking employment and fortune. Their financial success
in foreign lands resulted in increasing inflation in Kerala due
to higher wages and short supply of indigenous products and the
rising cost of real estate. The Gulf emigres hope that they would
some day build a mansion and retire in glory in Kerala, Though
the rate of immigration to the Gulf countries has leveled off,
immigration from Kerala to other parts of India continue. This
immigration phenomenon and the spread of education and prosperity
have succeeded in checking Kerala's population growth. Kerala
has almost achieved zero population growth.
forests abound in a variety of rare animals and birds. The elephant,
tiger, lion-tailed monkey, Indian gaur, python, striped mountain
goat, and wild fowl are still found in Kerala's forests, though
in reduced numbers because of man's encroachment on animal territory..
Mahogany, sandal-wood, teak-wood, and rose-wood are still the
proud products of these forests. During the past thirty years,
the forest department has been taking meticulous care to plant
new teak-wood trees and eucalyptus trees to prevent deforestation.
It is to be mentioned that teak-wood from Kerala had found its
way before the Christian era for the construction of buildings
in places like the Ur of Chaldea; Kerala's teak-wood went into
the construction of British ships used by Admiral Nelson in the
battle of Trafalgar against Napolean.