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Weather extremes in 2017

Austria: Total damage to agriculture at around 250 million Euros

Hail, frost, drought and floods were responsible for 220 damages claims per day this year. This year showed again that global warming, with all its consequences, does not stop at the borders of the country and not is limited to some continents. Climate change is knocking at our door and challenges our agriculture. “These effects can clearly be felt in Austria. This year the frost at the end of April, the floods, storms and hail and drought followed each other in quick succession and caused a total loss of around 250 million Euros for the agriculture. Of those 250 million Euros a share of 140 million Euros is due to drought, mainly in the north and east of Austria,” stated the Chairman of the Board of Austrian Hagelversicherung, an agricultural insurance company, Kurt Weinberger.

A trail of devastation caused by the weather 
This year’s extreme weather started with the warmest March in 250 years (+3.5 °C above the long-term average) and moved the start of the season forward by 2 weeks. This was followed by frost in April (up to -6 degrees), so this is the second year in a row of severe frost damage. This year the total damage due to frost was 70 million Euros. The following month, storms with hail, heavy rainfalls, resulting floods and even a tornado, led to a total loss of around 40 million Euros in the Austrian agriculture. Finally in this list of extreme weather, there was a very warm month of June, and it was in some places also the driest June in 67 years which resulted in more than 140 million Euros of damage caused by drought. "This extreme weather shows that risk management is increasingly indispensable for the economic survival for farmers," said Weinberger.

Risk management must continue to develop
Climate change is here; the average temperatures have risen by two degrees and Austria is experiencing the initial effects. Natural catastrophes such as floods, heat and drought periods will also continue to increase. “Our farmers face a huge challenge. The fight against climate change must be one of our core objectives,” stated Elisabeth Köstinger, president of the Ökosoziales Forum Europa. She continued to emphasize the importance for the Austrian ecology and economics: “It is imperative that we do everything in Austria to be as energy-efficient as possible and we should expand the range of renewable energy. This will drive our economic force." 

According to her risk management is an essential part of managing a business. “If massive storms destroy the harvest and negatively influence the income of the affected farmers, they must be helped quickly in these urgent moments of need. Austria is an international pioneer with our public-private partnership model and the fast damage estimates. The product range is the most comprehensive in Europe and is a positive example of a joint solution between the federal government, the states, the insurance companies and agriculture.”

Carinthia supports agricultural risk management 
In 2017 Carinthia was affected several times by serious hailstorms. The president of the farmers association LK in Carinthia, Johann Mößler: “These extremes occur more often and many farmers are threatened in their existence due to a total loss of their harvest. So it is important that we support the farmers in risk provision and risk management. And it is clearly more favorable and easier to manage for the public sector to expand insurance than to compensate for damage or for example, to increase benefits and food stamps. All farmers have the possibility and should provide insurance for themselves. There is a legal right to compensation."

According to Weinberger the international trend is clearly towards extensive crop insurance with governmental participation. This trend is mainly due to the increasing crop losses and the increasing frequency of the damage. “The subsidy on the insurance premium helps to stabilize the agricultural sector in Austria. Furthermore, it safeguards the Austrian food supply and in the long term secures 500,000 jobs in support sectors of the agriculture,” emphasized Weinberger.

Publication date: 10/2/2017


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