Blue day for Perthshire farmer forced to give away multi-million pound berry crop

A Scottish fruit farmer is to give away his entire crop of blueberries after calculating that harvesting them would cost more than they would yield in profit.

Peter Thomson has 60 acres of blueberry bushes under polytunnels on his farm near Blairgowrie, Perthshire, which is widely regarded as Scotland’s prime soft-fruit growing land due to its geographical location.

His fruit would previously have been worth approximately £3 million, but prices have plummeted by up to 30 per cent this year.

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And due to a shortage of pickers, and the additional cost of accommodating them, Mr Thomson has decided to quit while he is still ahead and donate the entire crop to good causes.

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Mr Thomson said it no longer made economic sense to harvest the fruit, which will now benefit local charities and be given to a food bank.

Scottish blueberries have traditionally commanded a high price as they are usually ripe and ready to consume earlier than those produced in other countries which would not be ready for harvesting.

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New varieties are now grown in more temperate climates such as Peru and South Africa, meaning that advantage has been lost to the Scottish growers.

Normally 200 full-time workers would have picked hundreds of tonnes of blueberries this year.

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Peter Thomson started on the fruit farm in 1976.  Melanie, a horticultural adviser, joined him in 1987

But Mr Thomson, whose team have been operating for 30 years, said the cost of growing, picking, packing and transporting the blueberries to the supermarket made that unviable.

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He said: "They can grow them at any time of the year, so this special season that Scotland had has disappeared.

"Instead of the high price bit of the season, it's the low price bit of the season.

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"The labour in these countries costs a tenth of what it costs here and we can't compete."

The Thomsons work the land as a couple
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Mr Thomson and his wife, Melanie, have now shut down their 25-hectare blueberry plot and are inviting passers-by to drop in and take some home as well as making large donations to local charities.

The ThomasThomson fruit farms have operated from West Haugh, near Blairgowrie, and Westfield , for more than 100 years, starting out with raspberries and strawberries before diversifying ito blueberries and cherries.

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Peter Thomson started on the fruit farm in 1976 following university. Melanie, a horticultural adviser, joined him in 1987.

Succulent and packed with natural goodness - the humble blueberry

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