9 February 1996

Cover brown rot risks

THE NEED for insurance to protect growers against potato brown rot is being assessed by consultants Agricultural Risk Management.

John Arnold, managing director of the London-based firm, says talks with the Potato Marketing Board and the NFU suggest it would be viable.

"We are getting considerable interest from the processing sector, and from Dutch seed suppliers who are concerned about how appropriate their contracts are."

He is also talking to farmers to assess their needs. "Clearly, growers are faced with a very difficult decision. Should they plant Dutch seed, or switch to less suitable seed with a lower risk?"

The "fragmented nature" of the potato industry means there is little opportunity to establish mutual funds to cover losses, as happened for rhizomania.

But it is difficult to assess what cover is needed while the ministry refuses to divulge what will happen to affected growers, says Mr Arnold.

"I believe they will take a case by case attitude. My understanding is that the concept of production having to cease for five years on the farm need not necessarily apply. Any insurance scheme would have to be kept simple, and would be designed to alleviate the impact rather than compensate fully."