17 April 1997

Flood-hit farmers may be caught by under-insurance

By FWreporters

FARMERS hit by the worst floods in 150 years stand to lose thousands of £ because they had inadequate insurance.

Last weeks torrential rain engulfed a swathe of land stretching across central England from Herefordshire to Norfolk. At Peterborough, the Environment Agency recorded one months rainfall in just 24 hours.

Insurance companies are likely to pay out for damaged farmhouses, buildings and vehicles. But farmers will lose on policies that rarely include crops and livestock.

Albert Garner, from Coates, Cambs, watched helplessly as 88ha (218 acres) of prime potato land disappeared under 10ft of water. "It is a major disaster," he said. "The flood water came down the river Nene, met the rising tide and broke the banks. We did not have insurance – the way farming is at the moment we cant afford to."

Northants farmer Ian Bowers lost about 150 sheep which were drowned when flood waters swamped his farm at Great Doddington.

"I think I am insured but I am not sure because the small-print always seems to get you."

Tim Price, spokesman for NFU Mutual, said claims for damage to buildings and machinery could "run to millions". But he rejected speculation that premiums would be increased. "We are in business to deal with situations like this and there is no chance that premiums will rise," he said.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, snow, rain, frost and gale-force winds have swept the country, resulting in huge livestock losses and bringing spring arable work to a halt.

Borders farmer William Davidson, Horseley, Reston, reported his worst ever lambing experience when he had to gather 50 dead lambs after a night of torrential rain and wind.

"These lambs were a week old and yet they perished, I have never known anything like it," he said.

At the opposite end of the country, Banffshire NFU president, Jim Wilkin, said the weather had been atrocious.

"I have never known the ground so wet. I lamb inside, but it has been nearly impossible to get sheep out to the field. We have not lost any lambs, but I know those on more exposed farms have had a heavy casualty rate."

In Aberdeenshire, Glyn Whitehead, manager of Aberdeen Grain, said no spring oilseed rape had been sown and half the spring barley was still to drill. "There will also be a lot of fields that have been drilled that will be washed out and will have to be resown."

&#8226 Sheep producers should report flock losses resulting from recent floods to MAFF immediately, according to the NFU. Producers have only 10 days from the flooding to claim that unforeseen circumstances have reduced the size of their flocks.

NFU advises producers to take photographs of damage and flooding and keep all documentary evidence to back claims.