COVID-19 hits Fasal Bima: Delays plague crop damage estimate

Published: April 10, 2020 4:00:21 AM

The Union agriculture ministry has told all the states to issue passes to representatives of concerned insurance companies for co-witnessing CCEs and to relax the norms for conducting field level survey.

In major producing states like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, only 10-20% of the crop-cutting experiments have been completed so far.In major producing states like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, only 10-20% of the crop-cutting experiments have been completed so far. (File image)

By Prabhudatta Mishra

Farmers wanting to be compensated by insurance companies for the crop damages during the unseasonal rains last month may have to wait longer, as the crop-cutting experiments (CCEs) designed to gauge crop losses on the fields, have been delayed in several states due to the lockdown. In major producing states like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, only 10-20% of the crop-cutting experiments have been completed so far.

The total premium collected by insurers under both the Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (WBCIS) was about Rs 7,500 crore during rabi season of 2019-20 crop year (July-June). Since rabi crops are grown under largely assured irrigation systems, the major risk factors are unseasonal rains with strong wind and pest attacks, potentially lowering the yield.

Under PMFBY, launched in 2016, farmers pay 1.5% of sum insured for rabi crops and 2% for kharif, while it is 5% for cash crops. The balance premium is split equally between the Centre and states. The farmers’ share in the gross premium collected by insurers has been declining every rabi season which experts say, is contributed to some extent by effectiveness of CCEs. (see chart)

In Madhya Pradesh, the top producer of key rabi pulses chana and masur, the CCEs are conducted by the revenue department and the patwaris are learnt to have expressed reservations to conduct it during the lockdown, which has resulted in less than 20% completion. Similarly, only 10% of the CCEs has been completed in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s largest producing state for wheat, as the crop’s harvesting has been delayed by around 15 days. The state has announced to start procurement of wheat at minimum support price (MSP) from April 15. Both the states were affected from unseasonal rains and hailstorms last month.

Rajasthan, the major producer of key rabi oilseed mustard and which also experienced crop damage last month, has completed half of the CCEs’ target so far as field level officials have been activated by the government, sources said. In Haryana, the insurance survey in mustard crop has been completed while 40% progress has been reported in chana. The CCE in wheat crop is yet to begin in the state.

“Timely payment of insurance claims is what the government should ensure, for which CCE must be completed before April 15,” said Sunilam, executive member of All India Kisan Sanghrash Coordination Committee, an umbrella organisation of 250 outfits. He said the government should depute alternative staff to get the CCE done as 30-40% of crops have already been harvested in Madhya Pradesh. Farmers need immediate cash in hand and they should not be made to wait for CCEs to sell their crops, Sunilam said.

The Union agriculture ministry has told all the states to issue passes to representatives of concerned insurance companies for co-witnessing CCEs and to relax the norms for conducting field level survey. The ministry last week held meeting with states and insurance companies to review the payment of claims, status of CCEs for rabi 2019-20 crops and crop loss survey. The use of technology in CCEs has also been relaxed to speed up the progress after some states informed about lack of infrastructure.

According to a report by industry chamber FICCI, “a major issue faced by insurance companies is the manipulation of location sites wherein the crop cutting experiment (CCE) is conducted at a different location than selected by random sampling method.” It has recommended using modern technology — weather stations, drones, satellite images and GPS-enabled mobile phones — to increase the efficiency of the operation.

There is a procedure followed starting from sending intimation for assessing post-harvest crop losses to actual conduct and thereafter sending the report. Normally, CCEs are conducted in four different pre-determined fields for each crop in panchayat to determine the actual yield, which is compared with 10-year average data.

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