Scottish farmer sued for £2 million after he ‘spoiled huge crop of Christmas trees’

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A Scots farmer is being sued for two million pounds damages over claims that he spoiled a huge crop of Christmas trees.

Agricultural contractor John Paton, 44, has been accused of neglecting the trees and slashing their value because of the poor quality they were sold in.

Mr Paton is facing the huge bill as a counter-claim by the tree producers after he launched a bid for £127,800 compensation against them at Perth Sheriff Court.

The Perthshire-based farmer claims Noble Nordmann Ltd owe him that sum because they breached the terms of a contract they gave him to look after thousands of trees.

Mr Paton was a member of farming co-operative Ringlink, which was contracted by Noble Nordmann to oversee the production of trees for the UK festive market.

His company was hired in January 2015 to look after the crop for a minimum number of 1,760 hours annually at a cost of 50 pounds per hour.

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He claims Noble Nordmann did not provide the promised instructions and maps which he needed to carry out the appropriate fertilising and treatment of the trees.

Mr Paton told the court that by the time the contract had been formally terminated 2,556 hours of work had been carried out and 127,800 pounds was due to be paid.

He said: “It has been an absolute nightmare. I’ve been a farmer and contractor all my life. My family were farmers before me. I have a good strong reputation.

“I did what I was asked. The counter-claim is just an attempt to get rid of me.”

However, in the counter-claim, Noble Nordmann - registered in Scotland but Danish owned - accuse Mr Paton of decreasing the value of the crop.

“The service to be provided was work on Christmas trees using a portal tractor. He failed to provide a driver competent in the use of the portal tractor.

“He failed to carry out services with reasonable care,” they told the court. “The driver was regularly absent from the site for days at a time, believed to be due to substance abuse issues.

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“He did not fulfil the contractual hours. Loss arose during the period of the contract because of his failure to timeously attend to spraying fertiliser, applying herbicide, insecticide spraying, brashing and hedge cutting.

“Such services were time critical and essential for the production of high quality Christmas trees. Failure to carry out services led to discolouration and damage to the trees.

“They were damaged by aphids. There was needle damage as a result of willow herb rust, caused by a failure to administer herbicide.

“A number of trees required to be destroyed. In addition, the quality grading of the trees was reduced, which caused and will result in a reduced return upon sale and future sales.”

The company produced a report which claimed the future losses would amount to 1,173,975 pounds, while the reduced harvest in 2017 was responsible for a 152,110 pounds loss.

They claimed a further loss of 669,514 pounds as a result of each tree from a crop of nearly quarter of a million being sold for almost three pounds less than higher quality trees.

Finally, Noble Nordmann claimed an additional 3,640 pounds to cover the cost of extra equipment they had to buy to “mitigate losses.”

Noble Nordmann owner Jimmi Enevoldsen said: “We had a massive aphid attack. We had discolouration problems because of the lack of fertiliser. We lost a lot of money and the trees are still suffering.”

Both sides of the action will be heard at the court at a later date.