Insure your wheat against veld fires, experts urge farmers Wheat

Mangaliso Lawrence Kabulika

WITH the 2023 fire season now just a month and a few days old, experts in the insurance industry have challenged wheat farmers to insure their crop to protect themselves from potential losses caused by rampant veld fires, which have become synonymous with dry seasons in recent years.

This message came out strongly in a recent wheat mid-season risk management webinar hosted by Agribusiness Media and drew experts from various sub-sectors of the agriculture industry. Seed Co Limited, Cell Insurance Company, Insurance Council of Zimbabwe (ICZ), Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company (ZFC), Drone Solutions and Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) were among the companies that attended the webinar.

Cell Insurance Company agribusiness manager, Dr Cylde Maponga called on wheat farmers to insure their crop to avoid losing assets tendered as collateral to financiers.

“Considering that much of our farming is supported by financiers and contractors, wheat farmers must be insured as a back up plan so that in the event of a fire, contractors won’t demand collateral,” said Dr Maponga.

Dr Maponga also added that farmers needed to be aware of the residual component of risk management, which can destroy their wheat.

“Farmers need to know of the residual component of risk management, which is something like fire, hail storms, flooding, theft and windstorm that they cannot control. There is therefore need to be prepared for such probabilities through insurance,” he said.

With the right precautions such as fire guards and field separation in place, farmers can be guaranteed of a successful harvest, which saves them from potential losses.

“Farmers need to construct fire guards to ensure no veld fires encroach into their fields. They also need to subdivide their fields ensure fires do not spread from field to field,” ICZ risk manager Mr Gasper Mazuru said.

Dr Maponga echoed Mr Mazuru’s sentiments saying farmers should leave a gap of at least 10 metres between combustibles and practise back burning.

“There should be a 10-metre gap between the crop and combustibles such as dry grass. When farmers are not sure of their surroundings, they should practice back burning that is burning of the surrounding areas to ensure that when fire comes it is stopped before reaching the fire guard,” explained Dr Maponga.

He also urged farmers to notify insurers of the disaster within 72 hours so that an assessor can determine the level of damage to get the pay-out process underway.

In light of the above, Mr Mazuru added that farmers are compensated at the end of the season when the final price of the wheat has been determined.

“Farmers will be compensated at the end of the season when the final price of the wheat has been determined and at that point the insurer can determine what level of insurance they can give out because a farmer should be compensated according to what they were supposed to benefit,” said Mr Mazuru.

Mr Mazuru also highlighted that farmers should be aware of what they are being insured for as some packages exclude certain perils.

“Wheat farmers need to be aware of what they are being insured for – fire, hail or diseases, as packages may consider certain perils excluding others,” observed Mr Mazuru.

Wheat is the second most important cereal crop after maize in Zimbabwe and proper mid-season management of the crop is crucial to ensure a successful harvest. However, the threat of veld fires during this time of the year can pose a significant challenge to farmers’ yields and income.

Veld fires are a common occurrence in Zimbabwe, particularly during the dry and windy period stretching from July 1 to October 31 annually. They can spread rapidly and cause significant damage to crops, livestock, property and even human lives. In the 2022 season, 200 hectares of wheat were razed by these blazing infernos that also claimed 18 lives.

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