Zsolt Varga, Hungarian Practice Leader for Food & Agri caught up with Péter Bross, President of OMME, to discuss their latest policy and why it is unique to them.
Varga: Please can you tell us a little bit about the OMME Hungarian Beekeepers’ Association?
Bross: The OMME is a professional beekeepers association. We have over 14,000 members, consisting of local SMEs and private entrepreneurs producing honey. We represent and support our members in many ways from providing advice and best practice to guidance and help to participate in projects financed by the EU and Agricultural Ministry of Hungary, such as buying new equipment and medicines for the bees, and fostering mutual marketing campaigns.
As an association our situation is unique because we represent so many private individuals who in theory should have their own individual insurance policies. But we wanted to offer our members another insurance option, insuring their risks as a collective.
Varga: What sort of insurance needs do you have?
Bross: Initially we required only a liability insurance scheme for our members. As a professional beekeeper organisation, we felt it was important to provide appropriate assistance to both the injured party and the beekeeper in the event of damage to the beekeeper’s business. We are also working to improve the relationship between the public and beekeepers, and insurance plays an important role in that.
More recently we have invested in a property insurance scheme, which will be launched this year. We took this decision partly because of our positive experience with GrECo and partly in response to the increasing number of cases of damage experienced by beekeepers. Our weather is becoming more and more volatile, with more frequent periods of severe drought and floods caused by sudden and heavy rainfall. In 2022, several apiaries suffered major losses that could have been mitigated with the correct insurance in place. Our latest insurance policy cannot be privately bought from any insurer in Hungary. It’s unique in Hungary, and indeed in Europe as a whole, because it insures all of our members en masse against risks brought about by climate change and also against the bees being killed by the ever-increasing use of pesticides or other such chemicals.
Varga: Was there any resistance from your members or from the General Assembly to providing insurance?
Weber: I am the International Director and I work diligently with my team of 12 in the international division. My role is to work closely with our international partners and in-house brokers and risk managers to tailor solutions for their specific needs, supporting them throughout the whole process. We distinguish ourselves by providing excellent customer service, which has secured us ongoing relationships with some clients for over + 60 years! It has also meant, over the years, that we have been able to increase both personal and business lines. We focus on always providing our clients with a wide range of integrated services which solve their problems, offer the best solutions, and the best cost-benefit without sacrificing quality.
Varga: Is it costly for your members?
Bross: Quite the opposite. The financial burden for our members is low. With the two insurance programmes, it only costs each beekeeper on average 10 Euros per year.
Varga: So how does the insurance policy work? How do you prove whose bees did what?
Bross: That’s the tricky part. As with all insurance claims, each one is unique, and this is particularly true in the beekeeping sector because it is a very specialised type of livestock. It is extremely difficult to determine whose bees caused the damage, because, for example the bees do not have any unique markings and can’t be restricted to property boundaries.
When we do experience an incident, the beekeepers report it to our central office and our county advisory network helps with the submission of claims. This then gets passed on to the experts at GrECo who liaise with the insurance company and follow each claim through to the end. It’s a remarkably smooth process.
Varga: Can you provide us with some examples of incidents that your members have faced?
Bross: Unfortunately, there have been many. In terms of liability cases, last year a hiker was attacked by bees. She was stung several times and broke her glasses while fleeing. Our liability insurance didn’t just cover the injuries, but also the damage to her personal property.
Another memorable case was a bee attack on an ostrich farm, which resulted in the death of several birds. It was an interesting case because they are exotic animals worth a princely sum. Despite this, the insurance company still settled the claim. The following year, the problem happened again. However, thanks to successful mediation, the damages were settled amicably for both parties.
And, in terms of property claims, we have already experienced claims for damaged property due to gale force winds. But it’s not just the weather causing issues for beekeepers. On New Year’s Eve, revellers broke into an apiary and destroyed several hives. Naturally, a police report was filed, and within 30 days, the insurance company paid for the damage.
Varga: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Bross: Successful claims such as these have really opened the Association’s eyes to the need for insurance for our members, where previously it had been strongly felt none was needed. We think, we have found solutions to the most common beekeeping damages. We are thrilled such a unique insurance programme could be established in Hungary and we hope that we can serve as a good example for beekeeping organisations in neighbouring countries, and anyone else in need of out of the ordinary insurance policies.
President of OMME
Practice Leader for Food & Agri Hungary
T +36 20 292 33 73
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