Gers: why do so many winegrowers shun insurance despite bad weather?

the essential
Despite the recurrence of climatic hazards, many winegrowers continue not to want to be insured. In question: the Olympic average and the increase in deductibles.

The sky has not spared the lands of the Gers since the beginning of the year. In Viella in particular, the vines are still bruised ten days after the last violent hailstorm observed in the department. An episode that echoes the one that touched Cazaubon at the beginning of June, and from which Nicolas Bonnefemme is barely recovering. This winegrower and duck breeder suffered 100% losses on his 11-hectare pockmarked plot in Sentex. Another plot was affected at 60%. Fortunately for him, Nicolas is insured and will therefore be able to limit the breakage, he who has also suffered the full brunt of the late frost. “I am uninsured but I at least insure the cost of production. It can be fatal for a company, ”he testifies.

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Also affected by frost in recent years on his family farm, the Domaine de Joÿ in Panjas, Olivier Gessler has also taken out insurance with Vivadour. “For me, being insured still allows you to be secure. When you are not insured, you have nothing at all. It has a cost but it secures a little”, he underlines.

Seemingly full of common sense, this foresight in the face of the increasing vagaries of the weather is by no means automatic among winegrowers in the Gers and elsewhere. Far from it. It is thus estimated that 80% of winegrowers are not insured in France. A figure which certainly falls to less than 60% in the Gers, but which remains substantial. “I haven’t been insured for ten years, because it’s not interesting for me”, testifies in La Revue du vin de France Jean-Luc Lapeyre, producer of white wine, red wine and Armagnac in Montreal- du-Gers.

Insured, Nicolas Bonnefemme (in the foreground on the left) is not completely satisfied with the current system of compensation.

Several factors explain this mistrust among winegrowers. Firstly, the public calamity regime de facto excludes viticulture, except when an exceptional request is made by the profession and granted by the authorities, as was the case last year. The increase in deductibles (from 10 to 20%) also reduces policyholder coverage. “It reduces the economic interest”, recognizes Philippe Maurel, administrative and financial director of the Vivadour group, which offers several insurance solutions adapted to the specificity of the Gers territory.

The other – and main – bone of contention concerns the “Olympic average”, calculated from the last five years of harvests, the best year and the worst year being subtracted. A method of calculation that necessarily disadvantages winegrowers affected several times in a row by climatic hazards, as has been the case in recent years. “As we have hazards every year, whether it’s frost, hail or cold snaps, we have falling averages so we can no longer ensure the yields that would allow us to cover our costs”, observes Nicolas Good wife.

“The Olympic average is not suitable for viticulture”

For Olivier Dabadie, president of the Plaimont cooperative, “the Olympic average is not suited to viticulture.” And to justify himself: “When you have no claims, the insurance conditions are extremely good but you do not need them. When you have claims, the conditions drop when you need them: there are always has this time lag.”

Many times solicited by the profession, the public authorities are aware of the problem. The former Minister of Agriculture and Food Julien Denormandie had conceded last December “an effect of irrelevance of the device” in certain cases. A reform promises to be complex, however, the “Olympic average” being set by the European Union and resulting from the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO). “It’s an international rule, it’s not flexible. It’s going to be quite difficult I think,” agrees Bernard Malabirade, president of the Gers Chamber of Agriculture.

While waiting for a hypothetical overhaul of the system, the State has promised to support winegrowers and insurers through a crop insurance law, which should be operational next year. A system on three levels: a first at the expense of the farmer (up to a threshold of 20% of losses), a second at the expense of the insurer (50%) and a third at the expense of solidarity national (above 50%). In the meantime, many winegrowers will continue not to take out insurance. Right or wrong.

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