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Pokkali gasping

Published: 16th Jul, 2022


Pokkali rice farming in Ernakulam district of coastal Kerala is under threat due to ‘mismanaged’ infrastructure.


  • Pokkali is a variety of rice endemic to coastal Kerala, and is unique because it can grow in
  • It is endemic to coastal regions of three Kerala districts—Ernakulam, Thrissur and Alappuzha.
  • However, while this variety of rice seems ideal to farm, several Pokkali farmers allege that they are not receiving adequate support to keep up with the crop cycle, which is vital to pokkali farming.

Key Features

  • Pokkali rice is famous for their salinity tolerance gene SalTol QTL and is significant for the International rice improvement programmes for salinity tolerance.
  • The rice is cultivated once a year from April to November, in the low-lying fields adjacent to Kerala’s backwaters and the Arabian Sea.
  • The fields are mostly submerged in salt water for a major portion of the year, and are used for the cultivation of shrimp during this time.
  • Shrimp cultivation aids the Pokkali rice in providing nutrition, since the paddy does not require any artificial fertilisers or pesticides to grow.
  • Pokkali farms are supposed to adhere to a double crop calendar — paddy between April and October during the low saline phase of monsoon and saline aquaculture between November and March when salinity soars.  
  • It has got Geographical Indication Certificate (GI) and Genome Community Award.

What is Aquaculture?

  • Aquaculture refers to the production of aquatic animals and plants under controlled conditions
  • According to Food and Agriculture organisation(FAO), aquaculture is understood to mean the farming of aquatic organisms including fish, crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic plants
  • It can be classified into following categories;
    • Freshwater aquaculture
    • Coastal aquaculture
    • Sea farming
    • Brackish water aquaculture

Shrimp farming: A type of Aquaculture

  • In this marine shrimps are produced for human consumption.
  • The formation of Brackishwater Fish Farmers’ development Authority, in marine states proved to be of great help to shrimp farming
  • Andhra pradesh, Odisha, Tamilnadu, Kerala and West Bengal have developed shrimp farming in a big way
  • Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh is a prolific producer of shrimp, that it has earned the distinct name of Shrimp capital of India

Why Farmers are facing issues in cultivating these varieties?

  • Due to Backwaters: Pokkali farmers are finding it difficult to keep up with this cycle is because the salt water from their fields is not being pumped out in a timely fashion.
  • Pumps required: Since their fields touch the backwaters, huge pumps are required to drain them of the saltwater.
  • Centre- State disputes: While the machinery has been provided by the state government, it is the farmers’ union in the region, ‘Maruvakkad Padasekhara Karshaka ‘Union that controls it. And they are not doing an effective job.

What are Backwaters?

  • Backwater is water turned back in its course by an obstruction on opposing current or the flow of tide in a river channel.
  • The backwater regions of Kerala are one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.


  • The backwaters of Kerala was formed by the combined processes of soil erosion from the uplands during the monsoon rains, the constant beating of the sea – waves on the shoreline, and human interferences in nature's way.
  • The alluvial soil deposits over centuries and millennia filled up the periphery of the sea close to the mountains and hills.
  • It was the result of monsoon rainwater flowing down through thousands of streams, brooks and rivulets on the mountain – sides forming the tributaries of the major rivers draining the vast quantity of monsoon rainwater of 3–4 months each year.

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