Hail Protection System Insufficient for Protection of Agricultural Products

27 December 2018.
Hail Protection System Insufficient for Protection of Agricultural Products

In the process of planning funds for functioning of anti-hail protection, distribution of anti-hail rockets and maintenance of launch pads, the Republic Hydrometeorological Service (RHMZ), does not ensure sufficient protection of agricultural products and producers, which is the key message of the performance audit report titled "Hail Protection System in the Republic of Serbia".

In the period 2015-2017, RHMZ did not possess optimal quantity of rockets, while in the same period smaller quantity of rockets were used than the quantity available, said Dr. Duško Pejovic, President and Auditor General of the State Audit Institution. At the press conference, he emphasized that optimal quantity is 12 rockets per launch pad, according to RHMZ methodology.

Given that parts of the territory of the Republic of Serbia are differently exposed to hail, not all launch pads have the same needs regarding quantity of anti-hail rockets, nor they spend them with the same dynamics. Therefore, certain number of rockets remain unused at the end of the season, while some launch pads run out of rockets during the firing process, Auditor General said. He added that there were instances that, in the end of the year, there were larger quantity of unused than used rockets.

Instead of the past linear distribution of rockets, RHMZ must distribute rockets according to the hail risk factor, so that territories with larger hail risk would have enough anti-hail rockets, Dr. Pejovic said.

He added that the audit determined that RHMZ procured the same type of rocket from the same producer at the price 18% lower than the price paid by certain local self-government units.

According to him, RHMZ relies on subsequent acquisition of funds from the current budget reserve and assistance from local government units, because it does not ensure, in timely fashion, necessary conditions for optimal functioning of the hail protection system.

Funds were not ensured in the beginning of the season, but later on. Ensuring funds depended on the funding capabilities from the current budget reserve, amount of earmarked funds from the insurance premium and readiness of AP Vojvodina and local government units to provide support to functioning of the hail protection system, Dr. Pejovic said.

According to the submitted data of RHMZ, from 2015 until 2017 AP Vojvodina and local government units earmarked total of 1.8 billion dinars for the hail protection system at the level of the Republic of Serbia, namely 68% from the Budget of the Republic of Serbia, 1% from the Budget of AP Vojvodina and 31% from budgets of local government units.

Average age of the rocket shooters was 52.5 years in 2017. Due to lack of shooters, there were 15 % of inactive launch pads last year. Conducted analysis showed that the largest number of local government units believed that the problem was amount of compensation, Dr. Pejovic said.

According to him, in addition to shooters, the reason for inactive launch pads was inadequate condition of objects or launching devices. In 2017, around 3.5% of launch pads were not active due to condition of the object. RHMZ said that it did not have an estimate of the financial assets needed for activation of launch pads that were not functional, and that investment maintenance was not carried out due to lack of funds.

Due to partial supervision over work of RHMZ and limited monitoring of effects of incentives for establishing anti-hail networks, one cannot assess contribution of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management to functioning of anti-hail protection, Dr. Pejovic highlighted. According to him, Ministry of Agriculture did not prescribe methodology for assessment of hail damage on the agricultural products.

Certain local government units conduct assessment of damage based on the Instruction on unified methodology for assessing damage from natural disasters, enacted in 1987.

State Auditor and team leader, Ms Natalija Pausic, said that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management started this year to introduce pilot automatic remote launch pads for hail protection at the territory of radar center of Valjevo.

Equipment was installed and is expected to be functional as of 2019. According to the Ministry, introduction of the system would eliminate human factor and it would decrease the number of launch pads, for covering the same territory, by a factor of two, Ms Pausic said.

Hale, as a natural disaster, has caused total damage amounting to six billion dinars in the past three years in Serbia, mostly in the field of agriculture.

For the purpose of more detail definition of this area, the State Audit institution issued recommendations to RHMZ and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management.