The district has a prominent place in the field of agriculture. The total extent of land under cultivation is 2,18,267 hectares. The principal crops are paddy, tapioca, coconut, rubber, pepper, banana, mango and cashew. About 70 per cent of the work force is engaged in agriculture.
Coconut gardens extend to about 75,454 hectares. About three hundred and forty three million coconuts are produced every year. The five major crops: paddy, tapioca, coconut, rubber, pepper - are cultivated in an area of 1,73,847 hectares. Small and marginal farmers constitute more than 95% of the farming community and the average per family holding is 0.21 hectare. All the 71 panchayats of the district are covered by separate Krishi Bhavans.
There is an oil palm plantation at Bharatheepuram near Anchal, in an area of 4000 hectares, under the Oil Palm India Ltd., a state government undertaking.
The rehabilitation plantations, another State Government undertaking, is located at Kulathupuzha near Thenmala.
Kollam district ranks first in livestock wealth in the State. Dairy farming is fairly well developed. There are 3.12 lakh milch cattle (1987-88 livestock census). A network of one district veterinary centre, 2 polyclinics, 48 veterinary dispensaries, 14 veterinary hospitals; and 167 artificial insemination centres, cater to the needs of the district. The number of cows increases annually by five per cent. There are about 65 milk producers co-op. societies and three chilling plants. The chilling plants are located at Kollam, Kottarakkara and Yeroor. The milk producers co-op. societies handle about 3.34 lakh litres per day. The Kerala Livestock and Dairy Development Board has a master plan to increase dairying. In poultry, the district stands third and there is great scope for developing broiler and layer poultry farms. The district is covered by the Integrated Dairy Development Project. 'Mini-Dairy' Special Project is under implementation, sponsored jointly by MILMA and NABARD.
Kollam is an important maritime district of the state with a coast line of 37.3 kms. Fishing has a prominent place in the economy of the district. Neendakara and Sakthikulangara villages thrive in fishing. An estimated number of 1,34,973 persons are engaged in fishing and allied activities. Cheriazheekkal, Alappad, Pandarathuruthu, Puthenthura, Neendakara, Thangasseri, Eravipuram and Paravoor are eight among the 26 important fishing villages. There are 24 inland fishing villages also. Considering the unique location and infrastructure available, the Government has initiated steps for establishing a fishing harbour at Neendakara which is expected to augment fish production by 15%. Average fish landing is estimated to be 85,275 tonnes per year. One third of the state's fish catch is form Kollam.
There are 93 producer co-operatives, two credit cooperatives and one marketing cooperative in the fisheries sector. There are 38 Fishermen Development Welfare Cooperative Societies in the district. Nearly 3000 mechanised boats are operating from the fishing harbour. FFDA and VFFDA are promoting fresh water fish culture and prawn farming respectively. A model fishing village with 100 houses is coming up at Eravipuram. A model prawn farm is coming up at Ayiramthengu and a few new hatcheries are also coming up to cater to the needs of the aquaculturists. About 60% of the production of prawn in the state is from this district.
There are 17 large, and one medium scale industries in the district, of which, two are Central Government undertakings i.e., the Indian Rare Earths, Chavara and Parvathi Mills Ltd., Kollam.
Kerala Ceramics Ltd., Kundara, Travancore Plywood Industries, Punalur, Kerala Electrical and Allied Engineering Company, Kundara, Kerala Premo Pipe factory Chavara, Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited, Chavara, United Electrical Industries Kollam and the Kerala Agro-Fruit Products, Punalur are Kerala Government owned companies. Other major industries in private/cooperative sector are Aluminium Industries Ltd., Kundara, Thomas Stephen & Co., Kollam, Floorco Paravur, Cooperative Spinning Mill, Chathannur and Punalur Paper Mills, Punalur. About 26,157 SSI units have been registered in the district.
Cashew processing and coir production are also major industrial vocations of the district. Handloom industry, clay and wood based industries also contribute to the industrial advancement of the region.
Cashew: Cashew processing is a major industrial activity in the district. The Kerala State Cashew Development Corporation (KSCDC) is the largest processor of cashewnut in the world. At present, it has 34 factories. K.S.C.D.C. provides employment to more than 26,000 workers.