1 October 1999

Soft fruit fears increase

SOFT fruit growers in Scotland face an uncertain future following an announcement that the last remaining canning factory in the main growing area is to close at the end of the year.

The strength of sterling is being blamed for the decision by the US parent company of HL Foods, Forfar, to close the plant. "We think the company is relocating its main canning operation to use produce from Eastern European countries," said Ewan Pate, Scottish NFU spokesman on soft fruit.

The firm has canning facilities in England and has offered to continue to take fruit from central Scotland. But, with added transport costs, that is not seen as a viable long-term option by Scottish growers.

A meeting has been arranged with local MSP John Swinney on Monday (Oct 4) when a variety of possibilities will be discussed including a new owner for the factory or even a takeover by the co-op Scottish Soft Fruit Growers which handles about 95% of Scottish production.

Carrot growers are also joining efforts to save the factory which currently handles 10,000 tonnes of carrots, about 1000 tonnes of raspberries a year and smaller quantities of beetroot, peas, beans and rhubarb. &#42