The Heat is Back on

May 15th 2019

James comes from a farming background and has worked in farm and estate insurance for the last 14 years. James looks back on the repercussions of the 2018 heatwave and gives advice how farms can get prepared for another summer scorcher.

 The odds of summer 2019 breaking the 38.5 degrees record of last year are shortening all the time. Pundits are convinced that another August heatwave is on its way. Good news for British tourism – and a much welcome alternative talking point from the dreaded ‘B’ word. But forewarned is forearmed. Farmers should learn from their 2018 experience to ensure they are properly protected against the unpredictability of the Great British weather.

Working on the theory that dry, warm challenges are better than cold, wet ones, I for one, am looking forward to another good summer. Although you can have too much of a good thing – highlighted by the challenges brought about by the hot summer, the wet spring and the mild winter of 2018.

The prolonged dry, sunny conditions were not conducive to farms on thinner soils and those growing potatoes, field vegetables and fruit. Furthermore, following the dry winter, aquifers and rivers have not had the desired top up – certainly the west coast of Scotland and the Highlands suffered from even private water supplies drying up. The old saying that “you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone” springs to mind. No pun intended.

Big problems were also faced by farmers in the west and livestock areas where a prolonged, wet and cold spring resulted in slow forage growth rates and very poor hay and silage yields across several cuts. Only a benign winter saved many a farm’s bacon last year.

Planning for a heatwave

Faced with another record-breaking summer it makes business sense to plan now for weather-induced issues from increased fire risk to securing fodder supplies and straw availability.

As the dry summer took hold last year, I was frequently asked about insurance cover for firefighting wild fire in remote areas. Cover is available and the best advice is to speak to your insurance provider to check if you are covered. As with storm or weight of snow cover, once there is an established problem, insures will be very reluctant to provide terms for new additional cover.

As the summer moved into harvest, many providers questioned policy holders whether sums insured were adequate for produce, deadstock or business interruption given the rise in commodity prices. It is also worth investigating if your policy has a “Stack Limit” for individual stores of hay and straw and if there are any distance limits between stacks.

In the event of a claim it is often innocent oversights that invalidate insurance policies. Faced with busy working lives, farmers simply forget to review their insurance as circumstances change or check the finer details of their policies. For example, it is usual that in larger potato growing businesses, as stores empty, the empty potato boxes are stacked adjacent to farm buildings. However, most farmers are unaware of the required distance between a shed and empty boxes to keep their policy valid.

I recognise that the topic of insurance can be rather tedious. Until it is actually required. Having been through a business debilitating shed fire last October, I can personally attest to the “stitch in time” adage. That’s why it pays to speak to a broker like Lycetts who truly understands the nuances of farming and the intricacies of insurance.


James Cuthbertson

Account Executive

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