Scottish soft fruit growers hit by storm 'catastrophe'

image captionHundreds of acres of tunnels have been destroyed by the high winds

Soft fruit producers in Scotland have said Monday's storm was a "catastrophe" for the industry, causing millions of pounds of damage.

High winds have destroyed hundreds of acres of polytunnels in Tayside and Fife, leaving the fruit exposed.

Replacing the tunnels alone costs about £12,000 per acre, farmers' co-operative Angus Growers said.

Winds of 80mph battered the country for hours on Monday, with one gust of 100mph recorded in rural Stirling.

William Houston, the general manager at Angus Growers, said the cost to farms could be as much as £30,000 per acre when the damage to tunnels, fruit and irrigation were taken into account.

'Massive hit'

"I've talked to one grower who reckoned the damage to his tunnels is in six figures," he said.

"We don't yet know what, in percentage terms, the loss will be - but it will be significant."

Angus Growers is a co-operative of 19 farms from Fife to Aberdeenshire. Mr Houston said they had all been affected by the storms, which have come just as demand for fruit was expected to go up.

"It's a massive hit at exactly the wrong time," he told the BBC Scotland News website.

John Gray, commercial director of Angus Fruits, said yields could be down by 15%-25% after the "catastrophic damage" caused by the storm.

Mr Gray said Angus Fruits - one of the biggest soft fruit producers in the UK - had seen damage to steel frames, tunnels and the fruit itself.

And a grower near Blairgowrie estimated that up to 400 acres of tunnels had been lost in her valley alone - leaving a potential bill of almost £5m.

Meg Marshall, of Peter Marshall and Co, said: "We've lost 20 acres of tunnels. We did everything to try to stop it.

"We put on storm ropes but as fast as we were trying to catch the plastic, it was blowing off.

"But it was too dangerous. They can lift right off the ground."

Mrs Marshall, who is one of four partners who run the farm at Muirton, Alyth, said they were only just beginning to recover from the heavy snow in November, which collapsed a lot of the tunnels.

"This will cost us tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds," she said.

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