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Insurance, Solidarity and Social Media for Hail Victims

Languedoc grower Frédéric Palacios surveys his devastated vines
© Frédéric Palacios | Languedoc grower Frédéric Palacios surveys his devastated vines
While some French vine growers hit by hail storms turn to neighbors and social media for help, a new insurance is proposed.

The French Ministry of Agriculture, Stéphane Le Foll, has recommended a new mutual harvest insurance to protect farmers from the worst effects of weather catastrophes. Meanwhile, some vine growers are simply turning to neighbors and social media to help them.

Coming in the wake of devastating hail storms in Burgundy and Languedoc-Roussillon, the French government has promised to contribute up to 100 million euros ($136m) to the insurance fund, in the hope that the aid will encourage more farmers to subscribe to it.

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Based on the conclusions of a working group set up in November 2013, the project was presented to trade bodies and insurance companies on Thursday during a meeting to discuss agricultural perils.

The insurance will not cover for loss of crop, but will provide the means for farmers to re-plant or repair damage in order to protect future crops. For vine growers, this would be particularly useful if new vine plantings, which are highly susceptible to hail, are devastated.

The ministry explained that this new approach would reduce insurance premiums. Until now, for most farmers, vine growers in particular, insurance cover has remained too expensive. Yet the growing frequency of hail storms in recent years, especially in the past month, has demonstrated the urgent need to find a solution.

The powerful FNSEA, the largest farmers union in France, has welcomed the ministry’s statement of support, stating that the new project is “a first step towards insurance for everyone … the insurance will provide a guarantee to farmers against major disasters and give them the means to continue in business.”

FNSEA has promised to monitor the initial test phase of the insurance closely and to encourage cooperation between insurance companies and farmers. The new insurance should be available by the end of 2015.

So far there has been no comment from French wine organizations; however in delivering the statement, Le Foll specifically mentioned the increasing weather hazards vine growers have to face.

In the meantime, solidarity among vine growers is growing in the face of adversity, with some growers, who have been unaffected by hail, offering to sell part of their future grape production this year to their badly-hit neighbors.

One organic Languedoc producer, the 5-hectare (12-acre) Le Mas de Mon Père in Malepère, whose vineyard was entirely destroyed, has launched a Facebook page to encourage more widespread support.

On his page, owner Frédéric Palacios suggests two ways wine lovers can help: either buy his remaining stocks of 2012 and 2011, and the soon-to-be-bottled 2013. Or, for 60 euros ($80) he will reserve you six bottles of a future wine to be named “La Part de l’Orage” or “Storm Wine” which he will make from grapes sold to him by his neighbors.

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