NFU Mutual passes £1bn income barrier for first time

THE UK's largest farming insurance company may have posted record income figures last year, but such is its concern over the number of accidents in farming it intends launching a campaign to reduce the toll of deaths and serious injuries.

NFU Mutual saw its income rise over the 1 billion mark for the first time this past year, but chief executive, Lindsay Sinclair highlighted in his comments on the past 12 months the need to tackle accidents on the farm.

"Sadly agriculture now tops the list of dangerous occupations in the UK and as a company which is part of the fabric of rural life we are launching a campaign to help farmers make their businesses safer.

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"To help reduce the toll of deaths and serious injuries we are strengthening our risk management subsidiary which advises farmers on safe working practices."

The Mutual said it will also work with the UK's NFU bodies and the Health & Safety Executive to communicate both the causes of many accidents and measures which can be taken to prevent them.

In this its centenary year, the Mutual has bucked the trend in continuing to grow despite the economy of the UK being buffeted by recession. Sinclair said he was particularly pleased that around about 93 per cent of general insurance customers renewed their policies in the past year, giving the company "a stability that made it the envy of other insurers".

General insurance premium income was up 8 per cent to 1.02bn in 2009. The company made an after-tax profit of 274 million against a 453m loss in 2008.

Claims rose to 880m. While these were headed by farm accident claims, there were also significant increases in motor accidents involving young drivers. The weather also brought a surge of claims following flooding in Cumbria last autumn.

Life insurance saw a downturn, with new business down 25 per cent – a trend shared by the UK industry as a whole.

The group opened 14 new local offices last year and increased staffing by 347 as part of a programme to expand its 300-strong local branch network.

NFU Mutual's financial strength has enabled the company to double mutual bonus payments made to its renewing general insurance policyholders in 2010, it said. In an initiative set to return more than 189m to customers, policyholders who have insured with NFU Mutual for five years or more will receive bonus payments of 20 per cent of their general insurance premiums.

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Direct support for the national farmers' unions rose to a total of 5.4m in 2009.