The Himachal cabinet late on Thursday announced an insurance scheme for apples and mangoes that covers risks arising out of changed climatic parameters in a given area but without including hail and other vagaries of nature, has the farmers asking for more.
â€œCrop insurance for apples and mangoes is something that the farming community has been demanding for a long time and the cabinet has given its nod for such a scheme,â€ says Ram Subhag Singh, secretary horticulture.
Presided over by chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, the cabinet decided to bring apple and mango crops under insurance cover and protect interests of the horticulturists.
The scheme to be implemented as a Pilot Project would include the developmental blocks of Jubbal, Rohru, Theog, Narkanda and Chirgaon in Shimla district and Ani sub-division in Kullu district for Apple crop.
For Mango crop the developmental blocks of Nurpur, Indora, Nagrota Surian and Fatehpur in district Kangra district have been selected.
For the initial phase to introduce the scheme, about 25 to 30 percent of the horticulture area in the state has been covered for the purpose, initially, a cabinet spokesman said.
Outlay of the Insurance Scheme
Secretary horticulture, Ram Subhag Singh explained, “a scheme has been devised under which â€˜Agriculture Insurance Companyâ€™, a government of India undertaking has marked out weather related parameters of temperature, rain, chilling hours and others to which a risk premium has been put.
Trees have been grouped in age brackets for productivity and a maximum claim per tree stands fixed. Premiumâ€™s which varies according to the age group of the tree, is to be borne on a 50:50 basis by the farmer and the government.
The damages would only be arrived at after end of the season on the basis of percentage differential observed in the stated weather parameters considered, said Singh.
Structure of Premium and Liability Proposed
Sources privy to the scheme revealed that a premium of Rs 45/- had been arrived at for a apple tree in the 5-14 age bracket and a maximum liability had been fixed at Rs 375 for the tree, irrespective of what value of crop it holds.
For a tree in the 14-40 age bracket the premium had been fixed at Rs 86 per tree and the maximum liability on the insurance company would be Rs 700 per tree, no matter what crop it holds.
The insurance company would install referral weather station in a referral unit area for the purpose of recording the weather parameters, which stand covered for the risks involved.
Upper and lower triggers for the parameters stand fixed on the basis of ten year weather data recordings done by the meteorological office and the horticulture university and based on the number of times these triggers are hit in a given season, a percentile of damages would be arrived at on the aggregate.
Such a computation would fix the liability to be incurred by the insurance company for the season, the source explained.
Within 45 days of the close of season, the insurance claims in a reference unit area would be paid.
However, hailstorms that reduce the value of a standing crop by as much as 90 to 95 percent has not given an insurance cover under the scheme.
When questioned Ram Subhag Singh said, â€œWe are trying to work out modalities for insurance against hail and the company has sought more time to relate data with risks involved for fixing a premium and maximum liability.â€
To reduce hail risks, we are in the process for inviting global tenders to install anti-hail guns in the fruit growing areas,â€ said Singh.
Farmers call it an eye wash: Seek risk cover against hail
Prakash Thakur, an apple orchardist from Kotgarh holds that insurance companies have been shying away from providing a cover to fruit crops despite there be an enormous demand for it.
He said that many companies have come up with different models over the last 10 years but none has been implemented. â€œLetâ€™s hope this one works,â€ he says.
On learning that the new insurance cover proposed for fruit crops would not cover risks against hail, Thakur said, â€œthe whole scheme appears to be an eyewash.â€
â€œThe greatest risk that an orchard owner faces is from hail and by not bringing it under an insurance cover leaves him as defenseless against the vagaries of nature as he has been facing for decades, said Thakur.â€