Header fires cause contractor concerns

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeThe West Australian
A header fire during the 2006 harvest.
Camera IconA header fire during the 2006 harvest. Credit: Countryman

Reports insurers will not cover contract harvesters after a spate of header fires in the eastern states are exaggerated, according to Grains Producers Australia.

GPA chairman Andrew Weidemann, who farms at Rupanyup in Victoria, said it was “business as usual” for insurance companies and farmers.

Mr Weidemann represented GPA, the national advocate for broadacre grain, oilseed and pulse producers, at an insurance meeting in Melbourne last month.

Representing Western Australia was WAFarmers grains section president Duncan Young.

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He met with GPA grains policy council, Grains Research Development Commission, Australian Custom Harvesters and agricultural insurance companies.

Mr Weidemann said the meeting was called to discuss reports contract harvesters across the country had been denied cover by insurers.

“In the meeting the very clear message from the insurers is it is ‘business as usual’,” Mr Weidemann said.

“Header fires are an extremely serious issue for all involved, which in worst case scenario can be many people far beyond the initial ignition point.

“This is why all people working in harvest operations should know about and use all appropriate strategies to avoid or contain fires.”

Grain Producers Australia chairman Andrew Weidemann.
Camera IconGrain Producers Australia chairman Andrew Weidemann. Credit: Danella Bevis

Fire insurance played a critical role in recouping lost income for growers in 2015 with record-high fire impacts on Australian crops.

Deadly fires and freak winds destroyed 500,000 tonnes of grain worth $150 million that year, also killing four people at Scaddan near Esperance.

Memories of difficulty faced by farmers at Harvey, Waroona and Yarloop after a bushfire burned for 17 days last January are still raw.

The blaze burnt more than 70,000ha, destroying 181 properties and vast tracts of farm land including prime beef and dairy country at Harvey.

Earlier this year, Department of Fire and Emergency Services WA said changing farming practices and higher-yielding crops posed bigger fire risk than before.

Mr Weidemann said those at the meeting decided to form a working group to meet regularly via teleconference and discuss insurance issues.

He said the group was made up of farmers, insurers, harvester suppliers, and researchers and would ensure information “flowed where it was needed”.

“The clear message was that insurers are prepared to work with clients, or potential clients, to meet their needs,” Mr Weidemann said.

“Each farming or harvesting business wanting insurance presents a different situation, claims history and risk analysis.”

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