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Poultry farmers struggle to find insurance

By Hu Yuanyuan | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-18 05:31

Poultry farmers say they are struggling to get their businesses insured, following the recent outbreak of H7N9 bird flu.

Zhang Bing, a breeder from Beijing's suburbs, said it has been a frustrating experience in recent days, due to the shortage of such products on the market.

The price of eggs has dropped 20 percent since the outbreak of H7N9 bird flu last month, and the price of chicken has also fallen by around 30 percent.

"I've lost more than 100,000 yuan ($16,000) so far," Zhang said.

"I thought about buying agricultural insurance and went to several insurance companies, but I was turned down by them all due to the high risks."

Zhang said larger-scale poultry operators need to be offered subsidies from the government to afford to take out agricultural insurance.

A number of insurers such as Ping An Property & Casualty Insurance and Taikang Life Insurance, offer policies targeting H7N9 bird flu, but all are classified as life insurance.

According to Wang Tian, the head of sales for Ping An's H7N9 bird flu insurance policy, the company sold around 500 policies in the past three days, after the product was launched on April 12.

The insurer is among the first batch of insurers to develop such a product. As the product is only sold online, it is hard to estimate where buyers are coming from, Wang said.

The premium for Ping An's H7N9 bird flu policy is 50 yuan ($8.10), which offers 50,000 yuan's worth of cover for birds dying of bird flu and 20,000 yuan for medical treatment.

The coverage of Taiking's H7N9 flu policy is even lower, and offers policyholders just 5,000 yuan as a payment if they die from the flu.

Compared with life insurance policies tailored for H7N9, insurance policies for breeders are in short supply due to the high commercial risks involved.

China's major property and casualty insurers, such as PICC and China United Property Insurance Co Ltd, told China Daily they have no plans to launch policies targeting breeders.

"Without support from the government, it is unlikely for commercial insurers will take such huge risks," said an industry insider who declined to be named.

Losses of poultry-related enterprises nationwide have exceeded 10 billion yuan since the first case of H7N9 bird flu was discovered, according to the National Poultry Industry Association.

With all live poultry stalls shut down in some regions affected by H7N9 since early this month, poultry breeders, suppliers and sellers are facing tough times.

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