Agricultural Insurance in India Problems and Prospects
Agriculture production and farm incomes in India are frequently affected by natural disasters such as droughts, floods, cyclones, storms, landslides and earthquakes. Susceptibility of agriculture to these disasters is compounded by the outbreak of epidemics and man-made disasters such as fire, sale of spurious seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, price crashes etc. All these events severely affect farmers through loss in production and farm income, and they are beyond the control of the farmers. With the growing commercialization of agriculture, the magnitude of loss due to unfavorable eventualities is increasing. The question is how to protect farmers by minimizing such losses. For a section of farming community, the minimum support prices for certain crops provide a measure of income stability. But most of the crops and in most of the states MSP is not implemented. In recent times, mechanisms like contract farming and future‟s trading have been established which are expected to provide some insurance against price fluctuations directly or indirectly. But, agricultural insurance is considered an important mechanism to effectively address the risk to output and income resulting from various natural and manmade events. Agricultural Insurance is a means of protecting the agriculturist against financial losses due to uncertainties that may arise agricultural losses arising from named or all unforeseen perils beyond their control (AIC, 2008). Unfortunately, agricultural insurance in the country has not made much headway even though the need to protect Indian farmers from agriculture variability has been a continuing concern of agriculture policy. According to the National Agriculture Policy 2000, “Despite technological and economic advancements, the condition of farmers continues to be unstable due to natural calamities and price fluctuations”. In some extreme cases, these unfavorable events become one of the factors leading to farmers‟ suicides which are now assuming serious proportions (Raju and Chand, 2007). Agricultural insurance is one method by which farmers can stabilize farm income and investment and guard against disastrous effect of losses due to natural hazards or low market prices. Crop insurance not only stabilizes the farm income but also helps the farmers to initiate production activity after a bad agricultural year. It cushions the shock of crop losses by providing farmers with a minimum amount of protection. It spreads the crop losses over space and time and helps farmers make more investments in agriculture. It forms an important component of safety-net programmes as is being experienced in many developed countries like USA and Canada as well as in the European Union. However, one need to keep in mind that crop insurance should be part of overall risk management strategy. Insurance comes towards the end of risk management process. Insurance is redistribution of cost of losses of few among many, and cannot prevent economic loss. There are two major categories of agricultural insurance: single and multi-peril coverage. Single peril coverage offers protection from single hazard while multiple –peril provides protection from several hazards. In India, multi-peril crop insurance programme is being implemented, considering the overwhelming impact of nature on agricultural output and its disastrous consequences on the society, in general, and farmers, in particular. Agricultural Insurance market is on the threshold of a spectacular growth. The support measures proposed by the government in the horticulture sector; potential of organic farming; growing clout of aromatic and medicinal plants; Bio-diesel plants; contract farming; corporate farming and integrated insurance (supply chain and ware housing) etc are likely to put agricultural insurance on high pedestal. The government underlined its priorities for agriculture in 2004 by setting a target of doubling...
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