At a time when untimely snowfall has wreaked havoc with apple crop, the failure of authorities to implement Restructured Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (WBCIS) despite state Cabinet's nod has cost dearly to horticulture sector in Kashmir.
The Cabinet meeting chaired by then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in March has accorded in principle sanction to the adoption of the WBCIS in respect of horticulture crops namely apple, saffron, mango and litchi for the Jammu and Kashmir in addition to "Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana" (PMFB) as per the operational guidelines of the scheme circulated by the department of agriculture, cooperation and farmers welfare, Government of India w.e.f Kharif 2016.
The agriculture production department was made nodal agency for implementation of the scheme.
However, according to agriculture department officials, failure of authorities to implement WBCIS on time means fruit growers have incurred more than Rs 500 crore losses due to the negligence of authorities.
"Though, earlier government had modified PMFB, but failure of authorities to rope in insurance companies for insuring crops in Kashmir is a big concern," said a senior agriculture officer adding that "insurance companies too are charging high premium. But if government had invited major companies it would have been possible to roll out the weather based insurance for horticulture crops this season, which would have met that losses incurred by fruit growers due to snow."
While the state government has implemented crop insurance scheme in the Jammu division a year ago, the fruit growers and farmers in Kashmir are still waiting for the same.
According to the official records, 1.4 lakh farmers in Jammu were insured under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), while none of the farmers in Kashmir have been brought under the scheme to give them cushion in times of natural calamities, like hailstorms, droughts, floods etc.
Director, Agriculture Production Kashmir, Aijaz Ahmad Andrabi said that weather based crop insurance will be rolled out from next season. "We have finalised all the modalities," he said.
When asked whether they have roped any insurance company for crop insurance, he said "insurance company will be finalised soon."
"Though we had issued tenders seven times for hiring insurance company, but due to lack of response we could not implement the scheme," he said adding that besides there were some technical difficulties in implementing Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), a key insurance scheme initiated by the Government of India (GoI).
Chairman of All Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Dealers Union (KVFGDU), Bashir Ahmad Basheer said they have repeatedly requested the government for implementation of the scheme. "Though the announcement of crop insurance scheme was made by the government but it is unfortunate that the said scheme is not implemented so far here."
WBCIS uses weather parameters as "proxy" for crop yields in compensating the cultivators for deemed crop losses. Pay-out structures are developed to the extent of losses deemed to have been suffered using the weather triggers.
The objective of WBCIS is to provide insurance coverage and financial support to the farmers in the event of failure of any of the notified crop as a result of adverse weather incidences including deficit rainfall, excess rainfall, unseasonal rains, dry-spell, wind, etc.