NEW DELHI– As much as 67 percent of India’s farmland is held by the marginal farmers with holdings below one hectare, against less than 1 percent in large holdings of 10 hectares and above, the latest Agriculture Census shows.

“The average size of the holding has been estimated as 1.15 hectare. The average size of these holdings has shown a steady declining trend over various Agriculture Censuses since 1970-71,” an official statement said on Wednesday.

Nonetheless, the percentage of area that was actually operated under larger holdings was more than 10 times the actual land held at 10.59 percent, while for marginal farmers it was three times lower at 22.50 percent.

This clearly shows the stress that marginal farmers undergo in India.

Another cause for concern is that in 2010-11, the proportion of net irrigated area to net area sown was 45.70 percent, which shows that for half the country’s farmland irrigation is yet to reach farmers, who rely entirely on rains for their crops.

Among the sources of irrigation, tube-wells was main source followed by canals.

While the cropped area in India is estimated at 193.76 million hectares, nine states accounted for 78 percent of it — Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and West Bengal.

Out of the total 64.57 million hectare net irrigated area, 48.16 percent is accounted for by small and marginal holdings, 43.77 percent by semi-medium and Medium holdings and 8.07 percent by large holdings, the census shows.

Agriculture Census in India is conducted at five-yearly intervals for collection of information about structural aspects of farm holdings in the country. The basic unit for data is the area under operational holding.

The Agriculture Census data is collected in three phases – first on primary subjects like the numbers and area of operational holdings, followed by a detailed one based on samples from 20 percent of villages on tenancy, land use, irrigation and finally on pattern of input use.

The concept of agricultural operational holdings does not include those holdings which are not operating any agricultural land and are engaged exclusively in subjects such as livestock, poultry and fishing.