Agri Business

Punjab farmers want crop insurance only if it is a freebie

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on January 17, 2018 Published on August 21, 2016

cotton

Centre says it is for the State to decide if it wants to pay farmers‘ share

The Punjab government led by Shiromani Akali Dal — a strong ally of the BJP both at the Centre and State level — has been unable to persuade its farmers to get covered under the PM’s Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) as they demand that the entire insurance premium should be paid by the government.

“While opposition-ruled Bihar decided to join in despite taking a long time to make up its mind, Punjab —a BJP ally — has not notified the scheme because of the disinterest of its farmers. It is up to the state to decide whether it would want to take on the farmer’s share of the premium in addition to paying half the subsidy,” an official told BusinessLine.

The main reason why Punjab farmers generally shy away from crop insurance is the fact that crop losses are very low in the State.

Low crop loss

“Crop losses are below 10 per cent in Punjab. So farmers feel that paying premium for insurance is a waste of money. But they have to understand that calamities can strike anytime,” the official said.

For instance, a large part of the cotton crop in Punjab was destroyed last year by white flies. Although many farmers have now switched from Bt cotton (the variety that attracts the pest) to local cotton or another crop, crops are always prone to one risk or the other, the official argued.

“The PMFBY offers the widest insurance coverage to farmers at a very low premium which we hoped would be attractive to all farmers,” the official added.

The ambitious PMFBY seeks to insure farmers right from pre-sowing to the post-harvest stage at a uniform rate of just 2 per cent (for kharif crop) and 1.5 per cent (for rabi crop) of insured value. For commercial crops, the premium is 5 per cent.

The difference between the actual premium charged by the insurance company (which could range from 6 per cent to over 20 per cent) and the token premium paid by farmers is to be borne equally by States and the Centre.

Upping the ante

The BJP-led Centre hopes to increase crop insurance coverage in the country from about 20 per cent to 50 per cent over the next few years.

But the more States stay out of the scheme, the greater will be the delay in meeting the target.

Apart from Punjab, five north eastern states including Sikkim, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram have opted out of the scheme this kharif season.

Published on August 21, 2016
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