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India - Crop damage by disasters

When farm distress and loan waiver has been the burning topic across the nation, the shocker is that Odisha farmers seem to be the worst-hit in country as the State in 2018-19 (till the middle of December) has seen highest crop damages in the country owing to natural disasters.

As per data available with the Union Government, with crop damages in an area covering a whopping 3.9lakh hectare till mid December, Odisha virtually tops country in 2018-19. In last half-decade, this was the second highest crop damage owing to natural disasters in Odisha, after 2013-14 (Phailin year).

The estimated crop loss in 2018-19 till mid-December stood at over Rs 1,800 crore vis-a-vis of Rs 3,850 crore in full financial year of 2013-14.

Significantly, when total pegged value loss was converted to the unit cost of cultivation per hectare, the cost of cultivation per hectare for farmers in Odisha boils down to around Rs 44, 000 in 2018-19. This fact reveals farmers in Odisha accrued a loss of around Rs 44, 000 per hectare owing to natural disaster like Titli.

The distress at hand then could well be imagined when Odisha has around 32lakh households with farming as principal income source, and a whopping 72 per cent of them has farm land of around 1 hectare only.

Data with State-Level Bankers Committee (SLBC) further reveals that when average amount of crop loans borrowed in 2018-19 were estimated at around Rs 50,000 per farmer household; fact to note in the given context how an assistance of Rs 5,000 each under the scheme ‘Kalia’ per farmer households in Kharif and Rabi looks a pittance, when the cost of cultivation per hectare has been pegged at around Rs 44, 000.

“The latest scheme announced by CM Naveen Patnaik shows that farmers in State have been under ‘Kalia’ (Lord Jagannath) mercy. After all, it’s the natural disasters that break the farmers’ spine to repay its debt,” rued farmer leader and NNKS convenor Akshaya Kumar.

How the farmers in Odisha are in economic crisis here is evident from the data available with the State Government’s Department of Economic and Statistics (DES). The DES data shows farmers’ real income has dwindled over years in Odisha as the total value of their crop products has dipped by around 5 per cent to around Rs 26,849 crore in 2016-17 from over Rs 28,440 crore in 2012-13 at 2011-12 prices.

The inference then is real income of crop-farmers in the State has eroded during last half-decade. Another important fact to take note of is the contribution of net value added by crops to total Net State Domestic Product (NSDP) of Odisha during last half decade has dipped to 10.6 per cent in 2016-17 from nearly 12 per cent in 2011-12. This significant pointer brings to fore that per capita income of crop-farmers in Odisha has actually declined, despite nearly 29 per cent rise in per capita income of the State during the period 2012-17.

In the given context, where farmers in State have faced double whammy of natural disaster and declining net income that together having curtailed farmers’ repaying ability on debt owned; demand of loan waiver, at least in affected districts, has then gained momentum on the ground.

Source –