Weather-based crop cover finds favour with Indian farmers

Sandip Das

New Delhi, Dec 10:

With unpredictable weather conditions, such as erratic rainfall, fluctuations in temperature and changes in relative humidity affecting crop output, the Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (WBCIS) offered by various private and public sector companies is gradually being accepted by farmers seeking protection from crop losses.

The scheme, piloted in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh in rabi of 2007, has, for the first time in the country, given farmers a cover against crop losses from adverse weather conditions.

Provided by Agriculture Insurance Company of India (AICI), a company mainly owned by four state-owned general insurance companies and Nabard, the scheme covers more than 35 perennial crops such as apple, citrus fruit, grapes, mango, pomegranate, cashew nut, oil palm etc.

As per AICI data, the weather-based product scheme, when implemented across 13 states in kharif 2012 and 14 states in rabi 2012-13, had insured 35 lakh and 37 lakh farmer, respectively.

“Although the share of weather-based crop insurance scheme amongst farmers opting for output-based insurance cover is small, it has caught on as it’s easier for the states to administer — we need not do a crop-cutting exercise needed for the implementation of national crop insurance policy. What we need to know is the weather condition of a given area during the life cycle of the crop,” PJ Joseph, chairman and managing director of AICI, told FE.

Joseph said new products like weather -based insurance provide protection to cultivators in the event of a loss in crop yields resulting from adverse weather incidences such as unseasonal or excess rainfall, temperature fluctuations, frost, relative humidity etc. “Triggers are broadly fixed so as to capture the adverse incidence of weather parameters on crop yield,” he said.

“Weather based insurance provides risk management tools for farmers to deal with climate change adaptation initiative,” Pramod Aggarwal, regional programme leader, Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) platform, said. CCAFS has been, in collaboration with AICI, promoting the weather-based insurance among farmers.

So far, only about 30 million farmers out of 120 million have been covered under the National Crop Insurance

Scheme, which mainly covers yield losses. About 70% of these are accounted for by farmers who own less than four hectares.

For the national crop insurance scheme, companies provide coverage based on yield, for which historical yields of the crops concerned are taken into consideration while for weather-based insurance, the historical data of yield is not needed.

The Comprehensive Crop Insurance Scheme (CCIS), introduced in 1985 by the centre in collaboration with state governments, was linked to short-term crop credit, where all loans for notified crops in a specific area were compulsorily covered.

Close to 60 lakh farmers benefited from the CCIS and the majority of claims were paid in states such as Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Orissa.

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