New insurance focus on frost

11 Jan, 2017 02:00 AM
Jonathan Barratt, CelsiusPro, says his company has successfully trialled a pilot project that allows growers to cover themselves against potential frost damage to crops.
Jonathan Barratt, CelsiusPro, says his company has successfully trialled a pilot project that allows growers to cover themselves against potential frost damage to crops.

WHILE Australia is awash with grain this harvest, the manager of a climate risk management business is pointing out that even in a record season, climatic woes have drastically impacted some growers' returns.

Jonathan Barratt, chief executive of CelsiusPro, said frost in Western Australia had significantly reduced yields while floods took the top end off production in central New South Wales.

"Even this season, with the national crop breaking records, regionally there are issues with climatic stress," he said.

Mr Barratt said the issues highlighted the need for growers to be able to take out risk management.

His company provides weather certificates, which act in the same manner as crop insurance, with the advantage they pay out faster and can be tailored.

In terms of specific risk he nominated frost as a problem the grains industry needed to monitor.

"Traditionally wet years have not seen problems with frost, but through WA and to a lesser extent South Australia, there were frost issues.

"WA saw stem frost, with temperatures below 2.5 degrees Celcius, while head frost caused some growers problems in SA.

"As a result we are busy working on a frost insurance product that is affordable and easily managed.

"We have thrown this around and for us, index insurance is the only viable option."

Mr Barratt said a trial of a frost index, conducted in southern New South Wales, had worked well and said the company intended to launch a Frost Cover for the 2017 winter crop.

The frost index insures the grower for stem frost and frost burn.

Mr Barratt said the main advantage of the cover is that it was a combination of cumulative temperatures below 0((xB0))°C and a one-off payment should the temperature drop below -2.5((xB0))°C over a risk period.

He said growers could choose the level in degrees when the cover would start and take individual certificates or group them all in the one policy.

The readings for payouts are based on approved interpolated data provided by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

Mr Barratt said along with multi-peril crop insurance, a vibrant risk management sector in Australia would also include single peril insurance products.

"I think growers like the idea of being able to be flexible with what they insure," he said.

"For example, if there has been good summer rain and the soil profile is full they are less likely to want drought coverage, but will still be interested in frost cover.

"That is something they are able to do with these products, which is obviously cheaper than a full multi-peril insurance product."

In terms of weather certificates, the system works by getting growers aligned with a Global Positioning System reference point or BOM weather station.

Prices are determined by the data over the past 25 years for the site.

"Weather certificates help transfer risks associated with adverse weather - be it too much or too little rain, or temperatures that are too hot or cold - away from the farmer and local community and onto financial organisations that can absorb it."

Gregor Heard

Gregor Heard

is the national grains writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media


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