Untimely rains – Loss of crops, farmers distress and food security | 4th April 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about crop losses brought on by untimely rainfall, which worsened farmer distress and constrained food security.


  • GS3: Indian Agriculture; Essay; Prelims


  • Every year, due to one reason or another, crops are damaged. For example, in the 2021–22 crop year, heat stress impacted the wheat crop and procurement.
  • Now this year, untimely rains and hail storms have damaged the standing wheat crop due to lodging or bending over from high-velocity winds and water-logging, resulting in delayed harvesting.
  • The wheat-growing states of Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh received more than normal rainfall from March 1-25 that dampened the prospects of a bumper wheat crop of 112.18 million tonnes.
  • The damage has not yet been officially assessed, but a potential output loss of 10% is likely.
  • Both farmers and India's food stability are being harmed by this.


  • Untimely rainfall and loss of crops:
    • The contrasts are indeed sharp with the previous crop year. There was very little rain from November to February, but it poured in March.
    • The India Meteorological Department is now predicting more rainfall in the wheat belt.
    • Last year, there was surplus rainfall from September to January followed by a scorching March. Until the unseasonal downpour this March, the wheat crop looked robust despite signs of an early onset of summer with warmer days and rising night temperatures.
    • Besides wheat, the rains have also affected the harvesting of the mustard crop, as also grapes, mango, chilli, coriander, and cumin.
  • Untimely rainfall and Food Security:
    • The FCI and state agencies need to procure at least 30 mt in the current rabi harvesting season from April to June so that adequate grain is available for the implementation of the National Food Security Act and creation of an adequate buffer stock of 27.57 mt of wheat by July 1.
    • But the above mentioned factors are bound to affect the government’s procurement operations.
    • The government is therefore taking no chances and now plans to relax norms as the harvested grain will have a high moisture content and lustre-loss due to the rains.
      • Under the fair and average quality standards, the FCI and state agencies purchase wheat at minimum support prices with a maximum moisture content of 12%.
      • Under the relaxed norms, wheat with as high as 14% moisture content can be procured from the farmers.
    • The Centre has relaxed norms for procurement of grain with lustre loss beyond 10% with a marginal cut of only Rs 5.31 per quintal as against the minimum support prices of Rs 2,125 per quintal in MP.
    • Procurement operations have already begun in that state with 0.26 mt purchased so far.
    • A favourable augury for the government’s procurement drive is that private players may shun mandi purchases due to quality issues arising from the moisture-laden crop.

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana

  • PMFBY aims to provide financial support to farmers suffering crop loss/damage arising out of natural calamities.
  • Objectives:
    • To provide insurance coverage and financial support to the farmers in the event of failure of any of the notified crops as a result of natural calamities, pests & diseases.
    • To stabilise the income of farmers to ensure their continuance in farming.
    • To encourage farmers to adopt innovative and modern agricultural practices.
    • To ensure flow of credit to the agriculture sector.
  • The Scheme shall be implemented through a multi-agency framework by selected insurance companies under the overall guidance & control of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare (DAC&FW), Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare (MoA&FW).
  • Premium:
    • There will be a uniform premium of only 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 to be paid by farmers will be only 5%.
      Premium over and above these limits is shared by the Central and State Governments on
    • 50:50 basis except in North Eastern Region where it is 90: 10.
    • There is no upper limit on Government subsidies. Even if the balance premium is 90%, it will be borne by the Government.

Way Forward:

  • The upshot is that there is bound to be considerable agrarian distress as farmers suffer huge losses due to untimely rainfall.
  • To be sure, Punjab and MP have extended relief to farmers whose crops have been destroyed.  But there is a critical need for a well-functioning crop insurance scheme that makes timely disbursements to the affected farmers.
  • Unfortunately, the flagship Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, which began in 2016, is still a work-in-progress as several states opted out of the scheme due to financial constraints.
  • As a result, from 2018 to 2022, there has been a decline in the number of participating farmers and shrinking coverage. These states must rejoin.
  • PMFBY must be made “smart and transparent with application of modern technologies to assess the damages”.

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