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Emerging market insurance continues to grow


ZURICH—Growth in insurance business in emerging markets continued to perform strongly in 2005, according to a report, "Insurance in emerging markets," published today by sigma, the economic consulting arm of Swiss Reinsurance Co. in Zurich, Switzerland.

Life and non-life insurance premiums recorded gains of 7.5% and 6% respectively.

This growth happened in spite of rising global interest rates and commodity prices. And the prognosis for 2006 and 2007 remains strong according to the report, despite persisting geopolitical tensions, "shrinking global liquidity," and the unpredictability of the global interest rate cycle.

The sigma report highlighted a possible weak link in the emerging markets insurance business: the agricultural insurance sector, where total premiums were estimated at around $1.1 billion in 2005.

This is less that 20% of the global total, despite the fact emerging markets account for nearly 70% of the world's food production. Swiss Re sigma estimates that the volume of emerging market agricultural insurance has the potential to reach $10 billion "if governments and insurers become more proactive."

"Agriculture is one of the most important economic sectors of emerging markets. A properly designed risk management system is essential for protecting farm operators and reinforcing rural development. Existing agricultural insurance regimes in emerging economies, however, show a mixed record: some schemes suffer from low insurance penetration and weak underwriting performance, due to high administration costs or adverse selection," said the report.

The report said that agricultural significance is going to become even more important as farm production becomes more sophisticated and competition increases.