Pest-struck Mizoram farmers hit by lack of crop insurance

The bad news of pest attack have turned worse for 5,309 families in Mizoram with the fact that their crops are not insured.

The Northeastern State, where a rat-induced famine had triggered extremism in the 1960s, woke up to an attack of fall armyworm (FAW) in Lunglei district on April 8. By the first week of May, the crawly pest had damaged 3,082.5 MT maize across 2,055 hectares of land.

The loss has been estimated at ₹6.47 crore, calculated at ₹21 per kg, including transportation charge.

Officials said that compensating the farmers could have been processed had subsidised insurance schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, launched in February 2016, been implemented.

“It is unfortunate that no crop insurance scheme is in place. We are seeking help from the Centre in this regard besides seeking the help of local NGOs in combating the pest that took us off guard by spreading very fast,” said Mizoram’s Agriculture Minister C. Lalrinsanga.

From Lunglei, the FAW spread to all the eight districts of Assam and attacked crops in adjoining Manipur. Mizoram’s district agricultural officers, however, were alerted about a possible attack on February 27.

The Mizo National Front, which took charge of the State in December 2018, stopped short of blaming the former Congress government for lack of initiative. The Congress, however, attributed the farmers’ loss to the State government’s inability to convince the Centre on crop insurance.

“The MNF should not use non-implementation of Central crop insurance scheme in Mizoram as an excuse for their failure to claim crop damages in several parts of Mizoram. Earlier, the Congress Ministry was always able to take care of the interests of farmers who faced hardships due to natural calamities,” said Congress spokesperson Lal Lianchhunga.

‘Reluctance of firms’

Agriculture officers said the present crisis is more because of the disinterest of insurance companies than the government’s lack of drive.

“The farmers and their crop are not insured because the PMFBY could not be introduced in Mizoram for want of a desirable company when the tender was floated for the purpose. We have floated a fresh tender. Some companies have shown interest, but the premium is high,” said Rohmingthanga Colney, the State’s Director of Agriculture, adding a reason could be small landholding and low-scale production of farmers.

The PMFBY aims at providing insurance coverage and financial support to farmers in the event of failure of any of the notified crops due to natural calamities, pests and diseases. The prescribed premium is 2% to be paid by farmers for all kharif crops and 1.5% for all rabi crops. In the case of annual commercial and horticultural crops, the premium is 5%.

On paper, there is no upper limit on subsidy by the government, which bears the expense even if the balance premium is 90%.

‘Poor marketing’

Ziona Lalremruata, general secretary of All Mizoram Farmers’ Union, said they have been pursuing crop insurance for a decade in vain. “The primary reason is the bad system of marketing of farm produce because of which most farmers do not make profit. This has affected the banking system and the insurance sector in turn,” he told The Hindu.

“The banks are simply not interested in servicing rural areas despite warning letters from the Centre. Even the Rural Bank of Mizoram is concentrating on Aizawl,” he said.

The State government said efforts were being made to impress upon the Centre to work a way out to make insurance companies service farmers despite the shortcomings.

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 9:56:11 PM |

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