Agriculture in Maharashtra varies across the State with its astonishing combination of weather, water and soil conditions; described variously as ‘rough, enduring and rocky’, it is traditionally a land of peasants. The assertion that the agriculture here is wholesome may not be too much of an exaggeration because, almost all types of fruits, flowers and vegetables as well as food grains are produced here. The progress made by the State in the agricultural and agro-based industrial sector is a result of the efforts made by innovative and research-oriented farmers as well as toiling farmers and land labourers actually working in the fields. Hence, Maharashtra has an important role to play in the agricultural sector.
Farming in Maharashtra is mostly rain-fed type of farming, which is entirely dependant on seasonal rains. The total area under cultivation is 225.7 lakh hectares of land, out of which approximately 80 to 85% has arable type of farming, whereas 16% area has horticultural farming. The State’s contribution in the total gross income from agricultural and agro-based industrial works in the year 2008-09 was 12.1% on the State level and 17.6% on the national level.
The method of cultivation varies across the State depending on the geo-morphological features as well as climatic zones both of which vary across the State. Typically, four types of agriculture can be identified in the State as follows:
- Rain-fed agriculture
- Irrigated agriculture
- Step or Terrace farming, and
- Shifting cultivation.
Farming is the main occupation for people in rural Maharashtra. 58% of the State’s population of ten crore live in the rural area and around 55% of the population is dependent upon agriculture. For them, it is not just a means of livelihood. Despite all the urbanization, the land to be cultivated, the animals and equipments that help in farming are all considered as holy wealth and worshipped by the Marathi farmers even today. Their whole lifestyle, marriage, family, cultural customs and beliefs are tied to a social system which is based completely on farming. The various religious rituals, festivals here are timed according to the cycle of farming. Thus, the term Agrarian Civilization aptly describes the agro-based social system here, as everything - the State’s economy, politics, as well as the whole social system, is dependent on farming.