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Insurer stops epidemic cover for poultry

Swiss farmers have been told to lock up their poultry

(Keystone)

Swiss insurer Winterthur has stopped offering cover for epidemics affecting poultry, in response to the threat of bird flu.

The company said a temporary suspension of new policies was not unusual when the risk of an insured event occurring was judged to be higher than normal.

Winterthur says it is the only Swiss insurer which offers cover for epidemics in livestock, and that the number of inquiries about cover for poultry has risen significantly in recent days. The firm said the decision was taken on Monday.

Winterthur currently has a client base of 3,000 for its epidemic insurance, covering about two million individual animals.

However, the insurer stressed that its poultry cover was not specifically for bird flu.

"It is a collective insurance for farm poultry against epidemics... under [this insurance] damages to poultry through influenza viruses are covered," said company spokesman, Markus Seitz.

Mass cull

In the event that the authorities ordered a mass cull of poultry, the insurer would be liable for the cost of transporting and disposing of the carcasses, as well as the revenue lost by clients through the suspension of their businesses.

The government would compensate poultry owners for the value of the destroyed birds.

Seitz said a temporary suspension of new policies was not unusual when the risk of an insured event occurring was judged to be higher than normal.

"If due to the extraordinary risk situation lots of new clients want to join at the last minute, this goes against the principle of solidarity with the old clients," Seitz told swissinfo.

"[This is] because an opportunistic protection is being sought and the joint risk sharing principle could become unbalanced in the event of damages."

Similar measures were taken during a bird flu outbreak in Italy in 2000, and during the food-and-mouth epidemic among cattle in 2002 and 2003.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Winterthur says it is the only Swiss insurer offering cover for epidemics in livestock.
It said the number of inquiries about cover for poultry has risen significantly in recent days.
Winterthur has a client base of 3,000 for its epidemic insurance, covering about two million individual animals.

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