Aug 2 2012 by Paul Cargill, Blairgowrie Adv
EAST Perthshire businesses could be hit as local soft fruit growers struggle to produce their crops this summer.
Thousands of strawberry and raspberry plants have been discarded as a result of late-winter frosts and the lack of sunshine.
An estimated £10m has been lost in the industry so far but local producer Peter Thomson has warned the losses could be passed onto other businesses in the Blairgowrie area.
Mr Thomson, who has 40 years experience in the industry, said: “Although a lot of the workers in our industry come from eastern Europe they still support local shops and businesses, so anything that affects the workers will affect those businesses.
“Of around 300 staff I employ there are 50 or 60 who are from here - so there’s the potential for a longer term impact as well, and that could be repeated.
“We are one of many large employers. I’d estimate that around 5000 people are employed in the sector here so if repeated with them it will be felt.”
Mr Thomson, who also chairs the soft fruit division of the NFU Scotland, added: “In my experience this is worse than last year with the recession and weather all playing a part.
“Strawberries are an iconic summer fruit associated with picnics and outdoor activities, but the weather’s kept people indoors.
“Only in 1985, which was a very bad year weather-wise, were things as bad, but we feel things differently with the way the modern industry is.
“There has been problems with weather and the markets in the past five or six years - 2010 was notable as a bad year too.
“The customer won’t see any fall in the quality of the fruit that’s on the supermarket shelves but for producers it’s harder to make them and the market’s fallen down because it’s been flooded with produce causing the price to collapse.
“We’ve got around two months of the season to go so we can only hope things pick up.”