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Sun comes too late to save Westcountry growers

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 07, 2012

Riverford Foods owner Guy Watson inspects this year's good crop of artichokes. But he said the overall 'pitiful' harvest had made it the firm's worst year in 25 years Picture: Richard Austin

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The Westcountry's best-known organic farm is mourning its "worst harvest ever" after extreme weather conditions decimated crops.

Riverford Organics has reported that potato yields are down by two thirds, while pumpkins, sweetcorn and strawberries have all suffered in a year that has seen spells of both drought and flooding.

Guy Watson, who heads up the successful business, based near Totnes in South Devon, said the pitiful harvest confirmed it was "unquestionably the worst year" since Riverford began 25 years ago.

He warned that another bad season would "sink" many of the growers who provide produce for 40,000 customers who receive vegetable boxes nationwide.

Mr Watson said some crops, including lettuce, spinach and hardy natives such as swede, parsnips and carrots, had fared relatively well. But he said the season had been "disastrous" for most fruit.

He said the company was now trying to plan ahead for next year, but the fickle weather made it difficult, with farmers not knowing whether to expect drought or torrential rain.

Writing on the company website, Mr Watson said: "What will next year bring? How will that jet stream and its trail of depressions meander? Should we blame our gas-guzzling and carbon burning rather than the Big Man for its deviations southwards?

"Another bad year would sink many of our growers. As we start to plan our cropping for next year the prevailing concern is how to cope with risk and uncertainty."

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