LW-I-3: Hailstorm damage in agriculture

The picture shows a maize field. The maize plants are bent and tattered and can hardly be recognised as such. Click to enlarge
Hailstorm damage can result in substantial yield losses: field of maize damaged after storm / hail.
Source: Photograph: © Zumthie | Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

2019 Monitoring Report on the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change

Table of Contents


LW-I-3: Hailstorm damage in agriculture

Extreme weather events such as drought, hailstorm, storm, heavy rain, flooding, frost and winter-related damage can cause yield losses in agriculture. Typically, the insurance policy covers only damage from hailstones. Increases in claims expenditure are essentially caused by increases in the amounts insured. Claims ratio figures make it possible to infer more direct conclusions regarding hailstorm events. These figures show a falling trend.

The bar chart shows the loss ratio in percent in agricultural hail insurance. The time series is adjusted for inflation and increasing sums insured.
LW-I-3: Hailstorm damage in agriculture

The bar chart shows the loss ratio in percent in agricultural hail insurance. The time series is adjusted for inflation and increasing sums insured. The values from 1980 to 2017 show clear annual fluctuations. The highest value was over 2 percent in 1993, the lowest just under 0.4 percent in 2014. The trend is significantly downward. A line additionally shows the claims expenditure in millions of euros in agricultural hail insurance. This trend is significantly increasing. Here, too, the values sometimes fluctuate significantly between years.

Source: Institut für Agribusiness (technical figures hail)

Yield losses caused by extreme weather events

As a result of weather extremes Germany’s plant production has again suffered some considerable yield losses in the course of recent years. As indicated by a study carried out by the GDV regarding insurance for agricultural multirisks (Landwirtschaftliche Mehrgefahrenversicherung) for Germany, annual harvest losses caused by weather-related risks in Germany amounted to some 510 million Euros per annum26. The bulk of yield losses was attributed to various levels of drought. Approximately a fifth of the damage was caused by hailstones as against a sixth caused by storm, heavy rain or flooding. Frosts too left a legacy of damage. If extreme events increase as a result of climate change, agriculture will have its fair share of harvest damage or harvest losses. The drought summer of 2018 has demonstrated that the average yield losses mentioned above can be much more severe. Protracted drought and heat caused harvest damage and yield losses amounting to 770 million Euros27. The affected farms were at least in part compensated for these losses by the state.

Although the exact relationships of climate changes, higher incidence of extreme weather events and the increase in damage to agriculture have not been clarified conclusively, they are the subject of close scrutiny by researchers.

So far, farmers have very limited chances of obtaining insurance for harvest losses caused by extreme weather events. Typically any statements regarding weather-related harvest losses are made in terms of approximated values. The exception to the rule is hail damage, because insurance for hail damage is relatively widespread in agriculture. More than two thirds of all farmland is insured for hail damage28. Regarding reports from hailstorm insurance companies in respect of insurance claims, it is therefore possible to make statements on at least part of the losses. Regarding any other damage borne by farmers themselves or for which, on a case-bycase- basis, they receive funding from aid programmes, there are no reliable data available.

The claims expenditure, i.e. the gross expenditure arising from insurance claims, has increased significantly since 1980. However, this is not exclusively due to increased incidents entailing claims. In fact, it is also a result of increases in insured amounts. In Germany, the market for agricultural hailstorm insurance is not considered saturated. Contrary to claims expenditure, claims ratio figures for agricultural hailstorm insurance are adjusted for the effects of rising insured amounts and inflation. In order to infer some more direct conclusions, it is therefore possible to use the claims ratio figures to identify the driving force underlying the claim, in this case hailstorm events. The trend indicated for the claims ratio is falling. 1993 was the year with the greatest incidence of hailstorms during the period examined. In 2002 major hailstorms, especially in south-west and eastern Germany, caused total losses in many locations, while in 2009 the north and south were affected most severely between late April and mid-August by a sequence of thunderstorms of extraordinary violence. The growing season of 2017 began with late frosts causing severe damage to fruit blossom, while later in the year additional losses in orcharding were caused by changeable summer weather with regional hailstorm events.

Although hailstorm insurance compensates farmers for tangible harvest losses, it does not cover any associated consequential losses incurred by a farming business as a whole. The insurance does not cover any losses in terms of market presence in a hailstorm year, or underused capacity of operational infrastructure or even increased expenditure arising from product harvesting and sorting efforts. This is another reason why many farmers do not regard concluding a hailstorm insurance contract as their only option. Especially in orcharding farmers increasingly use safety nets for product protection from hailstorms.

26 GDV – Gesamtverband der Deutschen Versicherungswirtschaft 2016: Landwirtschaftliche Mehrgefahrenversicherung für Deutschland. Berlin, 47 pp.
27 Informationen des BMEL zu Klimaschutz und Klimawandel:
28 BMEL (Hrsg.) 2017: Extremwetterlagen in der Land- und Forstwirtschaft – Maßnahmen zur Prävention und Schadensregulierung. Berlin, 26 pp.




LW-I-2: Yield fluctuations

BAU-I-5: Claims expenditure for property insurance