Livestock bushfires

Recognising the resilience of farmers is a focus on Australia Day for specialist farm insurer Achmea.  While Australian farmers are known for their resilience, it is something that has been put to the test of late, from dire farming conditions to the unprecedented bushfires and damaging hail storms experienced in recent months.

Farmers have endured one of the most destructive fire seasons in history, with important farmland destroyed and thousands of cattle, sheep and horses killed. With increased fire dangers returning this week, Emma Thomas, Chief Executive Officer at specialist farm insurer Achmea Australia, is paying tribute to the strength of Australian farmers and their families.

“This week, together with our local employees, I traveled through bushfire-ravaged communities and saw first-hand the sheer devastation.”

“Life on the land has completely changed for farmers impacted by the bushfires; from checking water daily for stock to having to start all over again.

“On one family farm I visited, just the woolen socks on the clothes line survived – everything else was almost completely destroyed.”

“With fires still burning, farmers told me about how their minds are spinning with an increased sense of alertness to ensure their safety as well as that of their loved ones and their property.”

As agricultural communities slowly begin to recover, Emma said the powerful community spirit is pulling our farmers through some of the toughest of times, highlighting the strength and resilience of our sector. As Australia’s specialist farm insurer, we are working tirelessly to support our bushfire-impacted clients. We have offered financial assistance and emergency accommodation, and getting farms back up and running again is at the heart of our approach.

“The destruction caused by the catastrophic bushfires has served to remind us of the importance of food security, reinforcing the value of the agriculture sector and recognising the resilience of Australian farmers and their communities,” Emma said.

“On this Australia Day when we celebrate our great country, we acknowledge the devastating economic and human impact of the bushfire crisis on our agricultural communities.”

“It is a day to reflect but also plan for a more resilient future of our sector,” Emma said.

Agricultural activities in Australia account for 58 per cent of land use, and it is vital for economic growth, employing more than 300,000 people and making up 2.5 per cent of the total workforce (lmip.gov.au).

According to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), the value of agriculture, fisheries and forestry production has increased by 34 per cent in the past 20 years, from approximately $49 billion, to around $66 billion.

“It is critical to the economy and our agricultural communities that we as an industry work together to rebuild the livelihoods of our farmers,” Emma said.

“Having witnessed first-hand the devastating impacts of natural disasters on the farming community, I understand the impact of a loss is far-reaching, and rarely limited to financial loss alone,” Emma said.

“Australian farmers are among the most resilient in the world, but it can be very difficult to rebuild and adjust to life after a catastrophic event.”

“Just like our bushfire season, the road to recovery is a marathon, not a sprint,” Emma said.

Established more than 200 years ago by a group of Dutch farmers to provide compensation in the event of natural disasters, Achmea is committed to contributing to a more ‘future-proof’ society through its focus on risk awareness and disaster reduction.

Achmea’s dedicated Bushfire Risk Mitigation Series is designed to keep farmers farming and protect their business continuity both in preparation of and during these unprecedented fire conditions.

The series is run by third-generation farmer and Achmea Risk Specialist Mark Vayro, one of the long-term volunteer firefighters working for the insurer.

“We have seen an enormous geographic spread of this season’s fires and in some cases fires merging to form unprecedented mega-fires,” Emma said.

“Our focus is on knowledge-sharing, prevention and risk reduction to help even the most seasoned farmer prepare for these unprecedented events.”

On a global scale, the United Nations is predicting food demand to increase by 70 per cent by 2050, and Emma said Australian farmers would continue to play an important role in feeding the world.

“It is going to take a collaborative effort to meet that demand,” Emma said.

“That is why it is so important for all industry partners, from farmers on the ground through to industry bodies, government, insurers and consumers to work together to ensure a sustainable future in Australian agriculture.”