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Insurance in the fisheries sector is under-utilised compared to other sub-sectors of agriculture in the country, says a new study. The sector has received little attention either at the Central or state levels, except for the presence of a few public insurance companies and cooperative bodies at the local level with limited scale of activity, says the study bythe Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI). Apart from accident risks of marine fishermen,other major risks like loss and damage to fishing vessels and gear and damage to coastal assets of fishermen are covered only at a limited scale across the country, including Kerala, it says. Moreover, no insurance policy exists in the country for risks like large-scale decline in stock of fish species,damage of sea cages,loss of fish crops and damage to farm structures. The study says accident risks of marine fishermen have a fair coverage in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, unlike other states. The study was conducted in the capture and culture sector in 14 fishing centres in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Odisha and fish farmers in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. A CMFRI release said information collected from insurance companies and government departments was also analysed. Exposing the 'pathetic situation' in the sector, it found that the provision for vessel insurance, gear insurance and coastal asset insurance was quite low, with only one case of gear insurance reported from Kerala. A meagre 14 per cent of fishermen from Tamil Nadu reported enrolment to coastal asset insurance, the study says. Insurance coverage of income risks owing to decline of fish stocks and price risks due to market price fluctuations were not reported by any of the respondents of the survey. The study by scientists from CMFRI also found that vessel insurance was minimal compared to accident insurance. It reveals that lack of awareness among the fishing community on the need and benefits of insurance scheme was one of the major reasons behind the situation. The trust deficit between insurance companies and fishing community was another major reason for the low-level adoption of insurance schemes, due to which private insurance companies were not interested in entering the fisheries sector. High associated risks and high incidence of moral hazards were also cited as determinants that pull back companies from vigorously pursuing business in the sector. In addition,there is a general discontent among fishermen and fish farmers about high insurance premium and unavailability of custom-made insurance products. They are also hesitant about the cumbersome insurance claim settlement and related formalities. Only a limited number of schemes exist in the sector to cover the risks of women in fishery and allied enterprises. Dr Shinoj Parappurathu, Scientist at CMFRI and leader of the study, said technology can play a vital role in improving efficiency, bringing transparency and reducing moral hazards in fishery insurance. He said Innovative products like weather-index based insurance schemes were already in force in the agriculture sector.
Inputs collected using geo-spatial tools and protocols could be utilised to compensate damage to coastal assets of fisher folk, marine cages and aquaculture farms, he said. "Such data would be valuable for the insurance companies to verify insurance claims by affected beneficiaries",he said. Further, latest developments in Information Communication Technology (ICT) could also be harnessed to increase efficiency and simplify the procedures, he added. The study proposes to ensure participation of grassroots level organisations like fishery cooperatives, NGOs and boat owner associations as intermediaries or partners for insurance administration. Details of the study have been included as major inputs in a report prepared by NITI Aayog in connection with the use of technology for agriculture insurance, a CMFRI release said.
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