Agriculture sector in distress due to extreme weather events, farmers need better protection measures, say experts at CSE consultation

November 26, 2015

  • CSE holds consultation on crop loss estimation, relief and compensation

  • CSE report Lived Anomaly - How to enable farmers in India to cope with extreme weather events to be released today

  • Experts point to increased severity and frequency of extreme weather events due to climate change and inadequate measures to offset this or protect farmers

  • Report finds evidence of ‘chaotic’ and politicized relief scenario and poor state of agricultural insurance – only 20% of Indian farmers and only 3.5% in Uttar Pradesh go for crop insurance

  • CSE recommends using technology for assessment of crop loss

  • CSE says wholesale reform in the way relief is estimated and delivered needed. Also, crop insurance sector needs improvements and it should be made viablefor farmers

New Delhi, November 26: Indian farmersare reeling under extreme weather events and need protective measures to ensure that India’s largest occupational sector – agriculture – does not decline further. “We are seeing an increased severity and frequency of extreme weather events. Farmers in India are facing the double blow of agrarian distress and extreme weather events as a result of climate change. A series of measures including better protection mechanisms are needed to support them,” said CSE’s Director General SunitaNarain. She was speaking at the National Consultation on Crop Loss Estimation, Relief and Compensation organized by CSE. Former Union agriculture minister SompalShastri, Narendra Bhooshan from the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Yudhvir Singh from the All India Coordination Committee of Farmers, JS Parihar from Indian Space Research Organisation and CSE Deputy Director General Chandra Bhushanand Yogendra Yadav from Jai KisanAndolan were among those who attended the two-day consultation.

A report on the impact of extreme weather events on the farmers of India, Lived Anomaly - How to enable farmers in India to cope with extreme weather eventswill be released later in the day.

Speaking about the timeliness of the consultation, Yadav said, “I recently travelled from Karnataka to Haryana and met farmers everywhere who have suffered losses due to extreme weather events. I thought somebody should be documenting and discussing this, and then I learnt about CSE’s report and the consultation. This is very timely,” he said.

Former Union agriculture minister SompalShastri said the Indian economy was currently not buoyant and was experiencing low demand, particularly from the rural sector. “Around 62 per cent of India’s people depend on agriculture. Until the problems of farmers are addressed, the economy will not boom,” he said. Shastri said one of the biggest blows to farmers in recent times was unpredictable rainfall and other weather events.In a session which Shastri moderated, two important issues that needed addressing were: the current crop insurance system was not effective and was accessible to a small proportion of farmers and the relief and compensation rules and practices that were in use currently.

Shastri said around 60 per cent of India’s farmers were dependent on rain water for agriculture. “Farmers need to be provided with means of irrigation if they are to guard themselves against untimely or inadequate rain,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of farmers, Yudhvir Singh said that the current relief and compensation method being used in India was devised in 1863 by the British. “It was not for the purpose of awarding relief and compensation but for waiving lagan. It is a big surprise that India still uses such an old and inappropriate system for assessing crop loss,” he said.

CSE report

CSE’s report Lived Anomaly is about what is happening to farmers in India because of extreme weather events, largely as told by farmers themselves. “Itsbasis is the winter–spring of 2015 and the aftermath. The report is also a peek into the future—what we should expect as our planet continues to heat up due to the incessant increase in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Bhushan.

The report is an assessment of the impact of the unseasonal rainfall and hailstorms in February-April 2015 on agriculture in India. It investigates the effectiveness of response measures—existing relief and compensation mechanisms in the country for farmers affected by such extreme weather events. The report highlights the need for urgent reforms in the agrarian sector, given the expected increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, and cites instances of advancements in crop damage assessment and crop insurance schemes that are more attractive to farmers.

Bhushan said what prompted the report was not just the degree of irregularity in 2015.  “This was the third year in a row when the rabi season was thrown out of kilter in large parts of India by deviant weather.  In 2013, five states were impacted and 0.35 million hectares (ha) of standing crops affected. In 2014, six states were affected and 5.5 million ha of crops, just a month away from being harvested, were damaged. In 2015, no less than 15 states were hit and 18.23 million ha of crops were damaged.”

Issues affecting farmers

CSE Programme Manager, Climate Change ArjunaSrinidhi said that field visits made by CSE researchers brought to light many issues that were aggravating the agrarian crisis that India was going through. These included:

  • A chaotic and politicized ‘relief’ scenario:

    • “Eye estimation”by the village accountant is the foundation of relief assessment.  This is a time-consuming process filled with inaccuracies and very high scope for manipulation and corruption. 
    • Farmers dependent on leased lands and farm labourersget excluded from receiving any relief
    • There are also huge differences in relief amounts from one state to another varying by as much as 13,500 to 50,000 per ha for same crop
       
  • State of agriculture insurance

    • Farmers interviewed could not tell which insurance scheme was applicable to their area and for which crop premium had been deducted
    • While the national average for insurance access is a low 20 per cent, in UP CSE found the reach was as paltry as 3.5 per cent.
    • A lack of farmer-friendly insurance products with clauses such as reporting losses of “local nature” within 48 hours difficult to comply with, insurance payout not happening at the individual level but for a block as a whole, etc.
       
  • A lack of institutional credit that worsens farmers’ woes

    • Despite increase in farm credit by over 2.5 times in the last five years, less than 6 per cent of the total institutional credit is made available to small and marginal farmers
    • This is despite the fact that small and marginal farmers comprised about 57.8 per cent of the total estimated rural households

Suggestions made in the report

Some of the key suggestions made in the report are:

  1. Use technology for accurate and speedy cropdamage assessment. This is key to the delivery of relief and farmer-friendly crop insurance schemes
     
  2. Undertake wholesale reform in the way relief is estimated and delivered. Currently, relief amounts given to the majority of the farmers are not even sufficient for the next sowing season. Relief, currently, is more political tokenism than a safety net against extreme weather events.
     
  3. Make crop insurance an attractive and a feasible compensation mechanism for farmers. Presently, agricultural insurance schemes cater to very few farmers in a few states and there, too, largely function as insurance for crop loans taken by farmers from banks

For further information, please contact Anupam Srivastava, asrivastava@cseindia.org, 9910092893