Sunday, December 16, 2018


Lack of cooperation between state govts hurdle in PMFBY implementation
Friday, 23 February, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, New Delhi
The lack of cooperation of the state governments is posing a huge challenge in the implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY). This was stated by Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, minister of state for agriculture and farmers’ welfare, at the national conference on accelerating agriculture insurance, organised in New Delhi by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

Shekhawat said that agriculture being a state subject, the states would have to come on board to iron out the glitches in the implementation of the scheme. He advised FICCI to conduct brainstorming sessions on the subject in the states and come forward with recommendations on ways to bring the laggard states on par with the good performers to derive the full potential benefits of the scheme.

The national conference sought to provide a platform for a candid dialogue between state governments, the private sector and farmer representatives on the present agriculture insurance policies, and to discuss how PMFBY, which was was conceived by the present government to provide comprehensive agriculture insurance in the country, was expected to unfold in future.

The minister said that the crop insurance scheme seeks to provide umbrella insurance coverage to the farmers from sowing to harvesting, and for the first time, the farmers had realised its benefits, buffeted as they are with the uncertainties of the market and weather conditions.

PMFBY was launched from Kharif 2016 by the Government of India and was built on the lines of the One Nation, One Scheme theme. The scheme is more farmer-friendly in comparison to earlier versions with simplified provisions and a reduced premium.

The farmers’ premium has been reduced for all food and oilseeds crops and kept at a maximum of 1.5 per cent for Rabi, two per cent for Kharif and five per cent for annual horticultural/commercial crops. This has resulted in increase in coverage of area and crops.

Ashish Kumar Bhutani, joint secretary, ministry of agriculture and farmers’ welfare, pointed out that while the PMFBY had resulted in a 74 per cent increase in the sum insured in 2016-17 and coverage under the scheme had risen to 50 per cent of the gross cropped area, a number of challenges still remained in its implementation.

For instance, many states were unable to conduct crop-cutting experiments. There was a lack of historical data on the insured which was jacking up premium, thereby impinging on the resources of the Centre and the states, and there was delay in the release of subsidy by states.

Bhutani said that it was also imperative to evolve a focused and structured dispute resolution mechanism in this regard.

“With a view to implementing the scheme end-to-end, the Centre has created a new portal, which will be online in the next seven to eight days. It will act as a platform for addressing all the relevant issues, including the processing of claims and the delay in the provisions of subsidies by states. Alongside this, the Central team to oversee and monitor the scheme was being strengthened,” he added.

Accelerating Agriculture Insurance
On the occasion, Shekhawat released a FICCI-Skymet knowledge paper titled Accelerating Agriculture Insurance and an ICRIER working paper on Crop Insurance in India: Key Issues and Way Forward.

The former said, “Indian agriculture is dependent on monsoon in such a way that any deviation in the onset or departure of monsoon largely affects agricultural productivity in the entire Indian subcontinent, leaving farmers in the lurch.”

“The vagaries of monsoon still decide the fate of farmers across the country, especially in the drought-prone regions. It is estimated that over 50 per cent of the total population of the country is engaged in agriculture and a majority of them are still dependent on monsoonal rain for irrigation,” it said.

“The Indian monsoon has a direct relationship with the global climate change, which is evidently showing impact across the country in forms like the early and the late arrival of monsoon, temporal fluctuation in the onset of seasons, unprecedented rainfall and associated phenomena,” the paper added.

“Huge variations in the climatic conditions make it challenging to tackle the menace of climate change, especially related to key environmental parameters, such as temperature and rainfall,” it said.

“There has been growing consensus among climatologists that global temperatures and precipitation patterns are changing. The last three decades have seen a gradual drop in the quantum of precipitation during the monsoon,” the paper added.

“The remarkable increase in temperatures and the decrease in the amount of rainfall has already started hampering crop production in the country. In addition to this, the number of rainy days has also reduced, with the rainfall averages remaining the same, thereby causing uncertainties,” it said.

“Another impact of climate change hampering the crop production is the increasing incidents of El Nino and La Nina, which have been having a direct impact on the monsoonal precipitation. El Nino has been proven to have influenced global temperatures besides global warming. The worst part about both these phenomenon is that their earliest indication comes very late,” the paper added.

“In recent years, the erratic and unpredictable behaviour of monsoon, accentuated by climate change has caused extensive financial losses in terms of crop failures, damage to agricultural infrastructures, loss of lives and properties, etc., due to natural and manmade disasters and destruction to environment and farmlands. This has aggravated food insecurity in the country,” it said.

The paper added that in order to combat this challenge, there is need to adopt a strategy which may provide a comprehensive solution to farming communities for safeguarding agricultural productivity.

Crop insurance is one such area which is gaining momentum in the contemporary scenario. This is considered as the best option to transfer the cost of potential losses due to disaster or emergency situations. By adopting crop insurance, farmers can also leverage technology and data analysis to monitor, manage and reduce the impact of those risks.

The government has taken several initiatives for the overall sustainable development of farmers and cultivators to protect livelihoods and to enhance their agricultural productivity. These may enhance the credit flow to farmers and expand the area of crop insurance and irrigation coverage, specifically in the era of changing climate.

PMFBY is one such initiative of crop insurance launched by the Government of India, which is a comprehensive scheme of insurance coverage against crop failures. The government aims to provide crop insurance for PMFBY to 50 per cent of the total cropped area during 2018-19.

Digital revolution is a well-established concept among the contemporary agricultural communities. Technology has always been an integral part of agriculture, which has been highly successful in intriguing farmers towards better farming practices, and thereby to crop insurance. Even one of the significant highlights of PMFBY is to adopt modern technological innovations.

Agriculture is a highly localised activity, and therefore, information must be tailored to specific conditions. Thus, staying abreast with the modern technological innovations like digital sensor-based weather forecasting, geographic information system- (GIS) based crop estimation, drone-based surveillance, etc. can maximise the benefits of crop insurance scheme for farmers as well as agricultural output.

Technology interventions play a significant role in agri-risk insurance in the country. The prospective areas where these interventions can inculcate a new culture of development and resilience at all levels are insurance coverage, sowing risk, crop mapping, price fixing, localised risk coverage, crop-cutting experiment, crop failure and damage assessment and disaster risk management.

Technology-based information products and services are important and relevant inputs for the above-mentioned areas in better planning to cover various risks in agricultural productivity.

The weather-based crop insurance scheme is also a remarkable insurance solution that is greatly contributing to promote digital revolution in the agriculture sector. This provides protection against crops and agri-losses resulting from weather adversities.

In this scheme, the crop losses are assessed on the basis of actual weather data received from the approved automatic weather stations installed at pre-defined places in different locations. Major weather risks arising out of parameters like rainfall, relative humidity, temperature, wind, etc. are covered under the ambit of this scheme.

With the gaining momentum of technological interventions in the agricultural sector, the risk related to agriculture has also increased exponentially. Thus, there is a need to adopt a well-structured strategy to combat the emerging challenge of agri-risk in the country.
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