30 May 1997

Loss doubles for NFUMutual

NFU Mutual, the countrys biggest agricultural insurer, made a £13m underwriting loss in 1996, more than twice that sustained in the previous year.

But adding investment income, the parent society made a trading profit of £69m.

Despite a rise in policy sales, NFU Mutuals income from premiums remained static at about £322m.

Price-cutting measures saved customers more than £15m, it was claimed. And £360,000 was donated to the farmers unions, after the BSE crisis.

Claims, meanwhile, rose £19m to £206m. A contributory factor was the high cost of rural crime, up for the second year running.

Vehicles and machinery continued to be a major target. Computers were also high on thieves "shopping" lists as farms and rural businesses kitted up with modern technology.

Livestock rustling also remains a serious concern, contributing to a £100m annual cost of rural crime, says chairman Alun Evans.

In the general insurance market, Avon recorded a 12% increase in premium income to £150m. But large claims resulted in an underwriting loss of £3.3m.

But it was a record year for NFU Mutuals Life and Pensions division. Its sales rose 60% in a market which, overall, grew by just over a quarter.

"State-funded protection continues to decline and, as a result, we can all expect to have to accept more responsibility for our standard of living, including costs such as nursing care in later life," says Mr Evans.