12 August 1997
Strong £ hits tomato growers

By FWi staff

EXPANSION plans – creating 135 new jobs – at Wight Salads will be threatened unless the Government intervenes to control the value of the Sterling, warns the company.

Isle of Wight-based Wight Salads Ltd, one of the UKs most successful salad growers, has seen one-third wiped off the value of its sales since May, despite an increase in production of nearly 30%.

The producer organisations six specialist growers, who have invested millions of pounds in glasshouse production of tomatoes, cucumbers and chilli peppers, say their backs are against the wall. They have managed to increase output, but turnover has been slashed – mostly due to the exchange rate.

“The value of our products is not determined in the UK, but on the European markets,” Wight Salads general manager Dave Agombar explained.

“Five pounds paid for a box of tomatoes in the UK is worth £5 to us, but £6.50 to producers in Holland and Spain,” he said.

Mr Agombar warned that UK producers might be tempted to move abroad unless the current situation improves.

“We want the Government to understand that this is destroying peoples livelihoods. Its a very serious problem. What was a buoyant industry on the Isle of Wight is now just treading water,” he said.

Arreton Valley Nursery, also situated on the Isle of Wight and jointly owned by Tomato Growers Association chairman Alan Parker, has already said it might mothball plans for an additional 20 acres of glass – and with them the promise of 135 new jobs, if the situation does not improve.