General insurers expect bumper harvest from new crop insurance

Chennai:Indian non-life insurers are hoping to reap a bumper harvest estimated around Rs 13,000 crore per annum from the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), the new crop insurance scheme, and the topline of some of the insurers are expected to grow by several hundreds of crore, say industry officials. "The PMFBY will be the growth story for the non-life industry in India. The topline of some insurers are expected to grow by Rs 1,000 crore and some others by Rs 300 crore," S.S. Gopalarathnam, Managing Director, Cholamandalam MS General Insurance Company Ltd, told IANS. Several states have started finalising their tenders for selecting the insurance companies to insure the crops in their states. Officials in the Tamil Nadu government preferring anonymity told IANS that public sector Agricultural Insurance Company of India Ltd (AIC) and New India Assurance Company Ltd have bagged one cluster each in the state. They said discussions will be held to finalise one more insurer for the third cluster. "We have divided the districts into three clusters and insurers are selected cluster-wise," a state government official told IANS. The crop insurance business in Tamil Nadu is estimated to be around Rs 1,000 crore per annum. The PMFBY provides a comprehensive insurance cover against failure of the crop, thus helping in stabilising the income of the farmers and encouraging them for adoption of innovative practices. The scheme can cover all food and oil seed crops and annual commercial/horticultural crops for which past yield data is available. The scheme is compulsory for a farmer obtaining crop loan and voluntary for other farmers who have insurable interest in the insured crop. As per the scheme the maximum premium payable by the farmer will be two per cent for all kharif food and oil seeds crops, 1.5 per cent for rabi food and oil seeds crops and five per cent for annual commercial/horticultural crops. The difference between premium and the rate of insurance charges payable by farmers shall be shared equally by the central and state governments. Industry officials are of the view that the specialist agriculture insurer AIC is expected to earn around Rs 6,000 crore, while the remaining around Rs 7,000 crore premium is expected to be shared by a few other general insurers. United India Insurance Company Ltd's Officiating Chairman-cum-Managing Director A. Hoda confirmed to IANS that the company too has bagged a sizable PMFBY business. United India officials told IANS that the company is expecting a business of around Rs 2,000 crore this fiscal as it has won the tender for five clusters in Uttar Pradesh. "We hope to close this fiscal with around Rs 250 crore premium income from PMFBY. We have won tenders in West Bengal, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand," Gopalarathnam said. He agreed that the top line of some companies would witness a big jump due to crop insurance which was not seen earlier by the industry players. According to Gopalarathnam, the business is cyclical and this year the claims ratio is expected to be lower as the monsoon is good. "Nevertheless, the claims ratio will not be less than 70 per cent," Gopalarathnam remarked. However, it should also be noted that insurers will be earning handsome investment income from the premium earned under this portfolio. "Last year the claims ratio was around 110 per cent and premium income was around Rs 6,000 crore under the agricultural insurance portfolio for the industry," Gopalarathnam added. "This year the monsoon is good and the portfolio may be profitable," a senior official of government insurer told IANS preferring anonymity. Gopalarathnam said the risk retention for Cholamandalam MS General will be around 20-25 per cent and the balance will be re-insured. "Going forward we may retain a higher portion after studying the business performance," Gopalarathnam added. "To the extent of reinsurance premium paid, the primary insurers will not be able to earn investment income. After one or two years of experience the risk retention rate may go up," a senior official of a government insurer told IANS preferring anonymity. He said after being a learning curve of a year or two the government insurers may also become aggressive in quoting their rates as this is a new line of business for them. The other beneficial impact for the insurers will be increase in insurance awareness amongst the rural populace and the possibility of selling other products.