Agriculture in Andaman Islands is only about 100 years old though plantation crop in Nicobar Islands is Centuries old. Prior to the establishment of Penal settlement in 1958 all the Islands were covered by dense tropical forest, the aboriginal inhabitants living a life knowing no form of cultivation. In 1870 Lord Mayo took serious steps for making Port Blair self-supporting by expansion of Agriculture. Convicts were given tickets of leave, encouraged settlement and started clearing of jungle in order to grow vegetables, fruits and other crops. The major clearance of forest and settlement was taken after independence with the programme of settlement of refugees, landless people from mainland, repatriates of Srilanka & Burma and the Ex-service men.
The profile and characteristic of Soil in Andaman and Nicobar Islands shows considerable variation from place to place, varies from heavy clayey to clayey loams, loams to sandy loams, nutritionally poor, rules out uniform crops for field or for plantation crops as well as large scale production. The cultivation of crops is totally rainfed receiving nearly 3180 mm rainfall annually with an average of 154 rainy days in one year.
Since beginning, the department of Agriculture is playing a vital role in the overall development of agriculture in the Islands by experimenting at the agricultural stations with all crops of local importance and in demonstrating the proved results of these experiments on the cultivator’s own plots. Seeds and seedlings of some of the best varieties in yield and quality cultivated in mainland have been imported and distributed to cultivators. The Department also devotes its attention to the introduction of newly improved implements and manures and organizing training camps to farmers all over the Islands and conducting study tour to mainland to make them aware of most modern techniques of cultivation and adopting the same in their own field.
Better utilization of available land is quite inevitable for the development of agriculture in these Islands. Out of the total geographical area of 8249 sq. km. of land, the land available for Agriculture activities is only about 50000 hect.
Agriculture in these islands is not very old. The original inhabitants of Andaman lived in isolation and depend for the food on forest products, fish and wild animal etc. for their survival. Cultivation of crops was unknown to them. In Nicobar group of islands, the tribal have been growing plantation crops like coconut and arecanut fro centuries. It is, reported that they used to exchange coconut and arecanut for rice and cloth etc. with foreign shipper visiting these islands form china, Malaysia and Indonesia.
In 1979 when a small colony was established at Chatham island, the conventional agricultural in a small area was taken up to support the population to meet the demands of vegetables and also a few tropical fruits etc. however, this project was subsequently abandoned due to aboriginal menace and diseases. With the Establishment of penal settlement during 1857 and with gradual increase of settlers by repartition, land distribution started in Andaman 7 Nicobar Islands, providing each settler about 2 ha. paddy land, 2ha. hilly land and 0.4 ha. of homestead land. The marked the initiated of agriculture in these islands. Thus by and large the history of agriculture back little more than a century although plantation of coconut and arecanut in Nicobar group of island goes 7th century.
The department of agriculture was established in 1945 to develop agriculture in these islands in a systematic and scientific line. After independence, major stress was under area expansion in agriculture development, and land for agriculture expanded unto the end of 4th Five Year Plan. As on date, agricultural activities are therefore confirmed to an area of about fifty thousand hectare.