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Why Goa’s Farmers Shun Crop Insurance

The much-publicised Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana has failed to elicit response from Goa’s farmers. The number of farmers seeking benefit under the scheme has been dwindling since it was launched on February 18, 2016. In 2016, 744 farmers sought insurance protection under the scheme; in 2017, their number came down to 537. In the current year the number is just 330. In the ongoing kharif season, a mere 272.71 hectares out of the total cultivated 1,54,721 hectares is covered under the scheme, accounting for a little over 0.5 per cent of land under cultivation. Most farmers who sought insurance are in sugarcane cultivation in three talukas of South Goa – Sanguem, Quepem and Canacona. The response to the scheme from North Goa is even poorer, with a meagre 3.67 hectares of land brought under the scheme, of which 2 hectares is under sugar cultivation and 1.67 hectares under paddy cultivation.

The very few availing the benefit under the PMFBY is an indicator that farmers in Goa do not see it as beneficial to them. The figures from the state available for the last three crops indicate that the farmers who sought protection under the scheme paid out much more amount as premium, while the benefits to them have been very little, despite the premium for insurance having been fixed at 2 per cent for kharif and 1.5 per cent for rabi crops. According to the data released by the Union agriculture ministry, a total of 744 farmers insured 543.78 hectares of land for Rs 57.73 crore and paid a premium amounting to Rs 6.73 lakh. The state and the central governments contributed Rs 62,000 towards their share of premium. However, the insurance companies paid out a just Rs 2.68 lakh as settlement of claims for loss of crop in which 111 farmers benefited in Goa. During the rabi season only 13 farmers sought insurance protection but none benefitted. During the kharif crop in 2017, 537 farmers opted under the scheme and the total premium paid was a little over Rs 5 lakh but the insurance companies paid out a meagre Rs 50,000 to 22 farmers. It can be easily assumed that the insurance companies benefitted more than the farmers in the state.

The scheme is billed as a comprehensive mechanism that provides coverage to crops from pre-sowing to post harvest against non-preventable natural hazards in the country. It was adopted soon after its launch by the state government. However, as it has only got lukewarm response from the farmers it suggests it may not be acceptable to farmers in the days ahead. Agriculturists and officials feel that scheme will not benefit Goan farmers unless it is modified to meet state-specific conditions, a possibility which has been ruled out by director of agriculture Nelson Figueiredo. Experts feel that the scheme has been framed taking into consideration the interests of larger states, with huge areas under farming. To get benefit under it a farmer has to suffer 80 per cent loss as crop loss, which happens mainly due to failure of monsoon and other natural calamities that are rare in the state. Most of the state’s paddy growers prefer not to avail loans in Goa. Only sugarcane farmers take loan and opt for insurance, which has been made mandatory for sanctioning loans. The paltry compensation paid to farmers who availed the scheme in the initial two years has been another major reason for the state farmers to opt out of scheme and be on their own.

With agricultural activities dwindling in the state over the last few decades, the state needs to come up with Goa-specific schemes that can help revive farming. It is well known that farming does not pay rich dividends as other occupations do; so there is need to make it attractive and remunerative. The government has to try innovative methods of organising farming as the farm sizes in the state are small. Pooling of interests and resources might be tried as it has been tried in the rural parts of Pune and other areas in the country. Attractive farming returns could attract youth towards the profession of their ancestors and raise farm incomes and go a long way in combating unemployment in the state. With farmers losing out premium amount paid to the insurance companies under PMFBY, it is unlikely that any significant number of them would opt for the central scheme in the coming years, and hence a state-specific scheme should be introduced, with local conditions in mind.

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