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The UK’s first commercial chickpeas crop was harvested in the last week of August 2019

Insurance Considerations Should Crop Up Amidst Farming Evolution

Sept 2019

The UK’s first commercial chickpeas crop was harvested in the last week of August 2019, this being the latest ‘unusual’ crop to be seen in the fields of East Anglia thanks to the farming innovation introduced by a company called Hodmedod [1].  Farmers are increasingly having to think on their feet, but what does that mean in terms of insurance?

The arrival of chickpeas on the UK farming landscape should really come as little surprise.  The attractiveness of veganism cannot be denied.  In the same week that the chickpeas crop was harvested, figures showed that vegan food has become Britain’s fastest growing type of takeaway, with a 388% increase in vegan meal orders between 2016 and 2018 [2].

Farmers are having to respond not just to veganism – with 600,000 people in the UK now thought to be vegans – but also to flexitarianism and the growing attraction of ‘clean eating’.   The latter puts a focus on whole food, free of sugars, salt, fat, chemicals and preservatives, and urges a rejection of processed foods.  The former is about following a plant-based diet, increasingly seen as a major means of combating climate change.

The cultivation of chickpeas follows Hodmedod’s delivery of the UK’s first commercial crop of lentils, two years ago, and the harvesting of the UK’s first chia seeds, in 2018.  Times are changing on the rural landscape and more farmers may well be considering switching from rearing animals, to growing the crops that tick the boxes of the UK consumer’s dietary preferences.

There is little doubt that chickpeas do that. Britain has an insatiable desire for hummus – the delicatessen delight produced from chickpeas – to the extent that it was dubbed the “hummus capital of Europe” in 2013.

But growing chickpeas is very different from rearing cattle, pigs or sheep and the processes and the equipment required for sowing, harvesting, drying and packaging plant-based crops are far removed from those of animal husbandry.  For many farmers, moving into such ‘arable’ production would be a sea-change and, with such a shift in methodologies, comes risk.

Farmers considering diversifying into new ‘fields’, have to consider the re-training required and the new risks that surround new tasks and machinery.  There is also the risk of finding a market for the crop and the added obstacles of weather risks, which may not have affected a farm used to rearing animals or one focused on dairy production.

The trend towards plant-based farming is likely to continue apace and individual farms need to ensure that their insurance protection runs alongside their evolution.  Relying on policies containing wording that was relevant five or ten years ago, may now not offer the protection required.  Crop yields could vary greatly from year to year, as climate change impacts are experienced, and this may also require a consideration of specific protections that could protect from the financial implications of crop failure.

Luckily a farming insurance specialist is often only a phone call away and easily sourced through our ‘Find a Local Broker’ tool. Work alongside a broker as you go through your agricultural transformations and you can have the peace of mind of knowing that new processes and risks will not lay your farm bare. Regardless of how your farming future looks, we can help you put your protections in place.