Jersey tomato grower plans to stop exporting to mainland

Jersey is to all-but stop growing tomatoes for the British mainland after bad summers, poor returns and economic tremors, says an exporter who is shutting up shop.

Director William Church of Jersey Produce Marketing Organisation is winding up his business after 36 years of marketing and exporting tomatoes and peppers.

Skyrocketing costs for fuel, heating, labour, fertiliser and packaging, along with poor returns from supermarkets, meant the "end of an era" for Jersey growers.

"There's been a growing feeling of unrest," said Church, who has made six staff redundant. "I told growers I thought next year would be worse and recommended they concentrate on the local market."

Church, who represents half a dozen growers, said only 11ha of tomatoes were grown, worth £5m. In the 1980s heyday, three times this amount of land bore tomatoes.

"Efficient production needs efficient glasshouses, but nobody has reinvested for the best part of 10 years," he added.

Some growers would target local markets, others would leave their land empty and a few would look at switching to other crops such as aubergines and indoor courgettes.

"You can never say never about a possible return to the export market, and a couple of nurseries are looking to take a couple of years out before maybe going back."

But Church said local grower Peter Le Cuirot, chairman of the protected crops committee of the Jersey Farmers' Union, would continue exporting to Sainsbury's.

Le Cuirot said: "I recycle some of the island's waste oil from cars, aviation and boats, which helps me keep costs down.

"Importers are using places like Poland and Morocco, but you won't get enough food source from those areas. It will take 12 months before supply-demand takes effect."


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