Firms wage cold war in fight with climate

This Is Wiltshire: Phil Collins watches his runner beans strugle to hit the usual heights Phil Collins watches his runner beans strugle to hit the usual heights

Businesses in Wiltshire are counting the cost of the weather this summer, after a very chilly start to 2013.

The last six months have been colder than recent averages and the farming and tourism industries are anticipating a tricky summer.

Bromham market gardener Phil Collins, 54, said: “The weather has been really bad for 16 months. Everything is behind at least three weeks and it’s been very difficult to grow stuff.

“For the first time, I have missed four Farmers’ Mar-kets because I had no produce to sell. The cold and wind have been the main problems. We haven’t had much rain where we are. “We lost our first lot of carrots because it was cold and frosty. I have hardly cut any asparagus because of the cold weather and our runner beans should be 2ft high, but they are only 12ins.”

Three batches of radishes have produced at the same time, leaving Mr Collins with surplus stock and having to cut prices from 90p a bunch to 50p a bunch to sell them.

At the same time, his costs have risen. His three tractors each cost £100 a day in fuel. Seed potato seeds have gone up from £380 a tonne a year ago to £400 to £600 a tonne.

He said: “We have to roll with the punches and we are hoping it will get better. We need more heat and sun, the sun creates the sugars in the crops and makes them sweeter.”

Pauline Stanley, owner of the Beeches Farmhouse B&B in Bradford on Avon, said: “A lot of people are leaving it to the last minute to book and make a reservation.

“You don’t know how much stock to get in or how many staff to have on.”

But Paul Jenkins, who has run Whaddon Grove House in Melksham for three years, said: “It’s been going well for us and we are getting as many bookings as we want.

“We have a lot of people who have come before coming back and we are really pleased with how the trade is going so far this summer.

“A lot of people who stay here are not local and will book in advance. They don’t know what the weather will be.” Chris Richmond, who runs Crockerton House, near Warminster, said: “We have had a difficult few years, but at the moment things are going really well for us.

“We are about 20 per cent up on this time last year, but it was a struggle because of the Olympics and Jubilee, which was good for London but not anywhere else.”

Ian Johnson, the South West spokesman for the National Farmers Union, said: “We have been playing catch up for a while, as we have been having dry winters then wet summers.”

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