According to an Insurance Fund for Natural Risks in Agriculture report, global warming caused $96.5 million (NIS 300 million) of damage to Israeli agriculture last fiscal year.
The hardest-hit industry was fruit, especially summer fruits like plums, nectarines, peaches and nectarines. They were deprived of a winter cold spell, and failed to develop properly, causing severe shortages in summer.
The compensation paid out to fruit farmers who had poor harvests was five times more than the average for multi-years.
In general, the amount of compensation paid to farmers was around NIS 170million ($55 million) per annum a decade ago.
“Over the past year, the climate crisis has made headlines and attracted global attention, and its implications are evident for agriculture in this country,” said Shmulik Tourjeman, CEO of the fund.
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“All the (relevant bodies) in Israel must internalize the immediate economic consequences of the climate crisis and the way to deal with them.”
He went on, “Agriculture is not just ‘another profession.’ Blue-and-white agriculture has national significance that includes maintaining a fresh and continuous supply of food, maintaining food independence and independence from external food sources, dispersing the population, and preserving state lands.
“Given the consequences of the climate crisis, farmers are being forced to take greater economic risks and are exposed to damages that no other field is exposed to,” he said.
“The only tool that enables them to deal with the consequences of the climate crisis is insurance. Without significant support for premiums that will allow farmers affordable insurance protection, farmers will be forced to reduce the risks they take, for all that that implies.”
In 2021, 11,000 reports of damage to agricultural produce were received by agricultural insurance surveyors. 5,000 of these were from northern Israel. Fruit growers, who were paid compensation of NIS 80 million ($26 million), were the hardest hit by the weather and the most directly affected by climate change, the organization said, particularly last year’s warm winter, which led to reduced harvests of fruits that needed a cold snap to develop properly.
According to the report, the year began with 19 consecutive days of high temperatures without rain. This resulted in 3,000 damage reports, mostly in the grape-for-wine, olive and fruit sectors.
Later in January, the tides turned and hailstorms with accompanying rain severely damaged vegetables, citrus trees, and field crops. Hail can cause severe damage to fruit, sometimes to the point that it is unable to be sold to retailers.
February saw severe weather conditions with heavy rains, hail and snow. The fund received 900 damage reports within four days.
The report said that extreme heatwaves were common in the summer and late spring. The whole summer was unusually hot except for June. The mercury surpassed all records in both August, and later, November. May saw 40 degree heat (104 degrees Fahrenheit), blanketing the coastal areas, Negev desert, and eastern valleys. There were 200 requests for compensation, mainly from growers and processors of avocado, citrus, and fruit.
NIS66 million ($21million) was paid to last year’s growers of vegetables, including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and onions. The Negev Desert’s drought caused poor harvests.
The Insurance Fund for Natural Risks in Agriculture is jointly owned by the government and the farmers’ marketing boards, and professional organizations.
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