Despite banana being notified for insurance coverage, most of the crops are not covered under National Agricultural Insurance Scheme
“We live in constant fear of high velocity winds as our survival might be swept away,” laments S.A.Sukumar, State president of Tamil Nadu Banana Growers’ Federation. It is the summer crop that fetches us substantial money and it is the season when summer gale could blast our trees out of shape thus virtually ruining us, he told The Hindu.
“We could not get a paisa from insurance companies despite more than six lakh banana trees, including some orchards in entirety, were devastated by the summer gale in Thottiam taluk on March 25 last year,” rues G.Ajeethan, general secretary of the federation. Ironically, despite banana being notified for insurance coverage in this area, most of the banana crops were not covered under National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS).
P.Subramania Iyer of Thottiam Taluk Banana Growers’ Association, a doyen in the field, says at least 5,000 hectares in Thottiyam and Kattuputhur region are under banana employing almost 10,000 persons. Tamil Nadu is next only to Maharashtra in banana production. In Tamil Nadu, Tiruchi and Theni are the major banana growing districts. While Theni is known only for G-9 or ‘robusta,’ Tiruchi is home to a number of varieties, including ‘neipoovan’, ‘karpooravalli’, ‘poovan’, ‘mondhan’,‘rasthali’ and ‘yelakki’.
P.Gandhipithan and N.Thyagarajan, secretary and treasurer of the association, are worried about the future of banana not only because of its fragile nature and the hesitation of the insurance companies to help the farmers out in times of calamity but also because of the severe labour shortage.
According to the federation representatives, the cost of cultivation of banana works out to Rs.1.6 lakh per acre. “It requires at least 100 labourers to complete the entire process of cultivation in an acre a year.”
They were honest to admit that banana used to fetch substantial profits in the olden days.” It has ceased to be so at present as the cost of several components of cultivation has gone through the roof. The worst is the labour scarcity.”
But the most nagging question uppermost in their minds now is when the government would accept their plea for covering banana in Thottiam region under ‘local calamity insurance scheme.’ “So far, though the banks used to deduct five per cent of the loan towards the insurance premium they rarely gave us any compensation whenever our orchards suffered due to gale,” they alleged.
“We do not want compensation per taluk or block. We want individual compensation even if a few trees are damaged.”
They point out that the insurance scheme is sponsored by the government and it shares 50 per cent of the premium as subsidy. As per rules, this scheme could come into operation only if the Collectors of the districts concerned were to specify a crop in a specific area. Thottiam block in Tiruchi district and Ammapettai block in Erode district have been recommended for coverage on trial basis. They would be covered under wind insurance with a specific package. “This proposal is now pending with the government.”
On the lines of paddy, they plead for a support price which should be 25 per cent more than the cost of cultivation. Besides, in the noon meal scheme, banana could be added, not only for the vegetarians but also for non-vegetarians.