‘Without support from States, growing in terminal decline’
GUERNSEY’s growing industry is ‘in permanent decline’ and local producers fear they will be the last generation unless the States steps in to support them.
Ian and Mark Langlois, who own a working vinery at Les Heches, St Peter’s, and the redundant Whispers Vinery in the Castel, grow tomatoes and peppers.
According to the brothers, there appears to be little political will in supporting an industry that is a key part of Guernsey’s heritage.
‘In Jersey the farming industry is really important and is valued, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Guernsey,’ said Ian.
‘In Jersey, they really believe in the brand and they have created a perception that the Jersey Royal is better than other new potato.
‘Everything is against them too – the high freight costs, all the difficulties of living on an island – but they still manage to keep things going. If we were to give up, we would be the last ones and Jersey would jump in and be supported by their government to take over.’
A few years ago, when a controversial wood burning heater they used at Whispers was banned, Mark said they held an open day to the public to give their side of the story.
‘We only had two deputies come down to visit us and get our point of view,’ he said.
Another local vegetable grower, Terry Robert, said his industry was no longer viable or attractive to young people.
‘In 2013/14 we managed to build a shed and store, but we wouldn’t be able to do that now.
‘Wages are going up, the prices of seeds and crops are going up, and the prices we get are going down
‘I can’t see any youngsters wanting to come into it. I think when we finish, that will be it. If you’d have told me years ago that one day there would be no Guernsey-grown tomatoes, I would have thought you were being silly.
‘You have got to work hard and it is seven days a week, you don’t go on holidays. That is the only way to survive. It just isn’t a cheap business to be in.’
Mr Robert said the industry’s decline had been accelerated by supermarkets’ preference for cost over provenance.
‘We no longer supply any of the supermarkets, all we do now are a few small shops, like Forest Stores, and butchers and we put a heck of a lot on a vegetable stall outside our house,’ he said.
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