Only 40% of crop farmers take out insurance: experts

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Climate change has heightened the risks farmers face with unpredictable weather patterns, but not many take out agriculture insurance.

Experts say about 40% of crop farmers take out insurance. Some find it to be too expensive, while others use alternative risk-mitigating measures.

Agriculture insurance can cover farmers against damage caused by hail, frost, drought, floods, locusts, or other pests.

Farmers are at the receiving end of unpredictable weather patterns like extreme floods, droughts, and changing temperatures as well as pests and diseases, associated with climate change.

Agriculture SA says the extreme weather events have over the years devastated many farmers, with many failing to recover from them.

Risk and Disaster Manager at Agri SA, Andrea Campher says the sector is the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change as good climate conditions are crucial to producing food.

“Our producers at the grass level experience these climate variabilities first hand, water is critical for production, either for irrigation or rain-fed agriculture and we have seen parts of the country as I have mentioned are dryer such as the Karoo, we also know that there is day zero in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro is also a reality.”

He adds “The Northern Cape is very prone to drought disasters and then there is flooding that can  take place in the eastern parts of the country like KwaZulu Natal and the sugar cane farmers, vegetable farmers all those producers in those districts are severely affected.”

With the difficult economic conditions characterised by the high cost of living, farmers are faced with high fuel prices and increasing fertiliser prices as a result of the war in Eastern Europe. To cut costs, many farmers have opted not to take insurance.

Agricultural insurance, which is meant to cushion farmers against unforeseen damage to either crops or various assets, is either misunderstood or seen as too expensive, while others opt for other ways to mitigate risks.

Head of Agriculture at Santam, Daniel Stevens says only 40% of farmers take up insurance.

“From a crop perspective we see about only 40% of farmers take up insurance, keeping in mind that insurance is a risk mitigating tool, some farmers may for example construct hail nets, and others may diversify in that they have farms in different areas so the weather patterns in the different areas provide them with some protection,”

Stevens says they are also targeting your small-scale farmers as well because there is a lack of knowledge about insurance with small-scale farmers.

“But generally the type of crops that we also ensure is also maize as well as wheat, those are your two predominant ones as well as soybeans and sunflower, but generally about 40% of farmers take up crop insurance,”

Making risk assessments is difficult Johan Van den Berg, an Agriculture meteorologist says experience in crop insurance has taught him that it’s very difficult to predict what climate change will do. He says risk assessments have become more reactive.

“In terms of crop insurance, it’s more a reactive type of situation that they are doing, it’s very difficult to predict what climate change will do. They may add some rating for the increase in the variability, the uncertainty about things, but more often, the rating is as a result of what happened in the past years, so if there are more frequent or more events, higher damage in terms of crops, the claims, then it forms part of the rating process.”

Van den Berg says there is an expectation of above-average rainfall for this summer season. He says they are currently in the third consecutive La Nina year, but there is an expectation that La Nina will weaken in the second half of the summer season, leading to below-average rainfall, from February and March of next year, before El Nino hit leading to dryer conditions from the next winter.

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