Thanet Earth suffers loss as virus hits

Kent protected salads producer Thanet Earth has reported an increase in pre-tax losses and reduced turnover, which is said were down to an outbreak of tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV ) at its nursery near Manston in Kent.

The company, which is owned by the Fresca Group, suffered pre-tax losses of £1.48m in the year to 24 April 2020 – up 85 per cent from the loss of £797,000 seen in the previous accounting period. Sales also fell seven per cent from £92.4 million to £85.9 million after it suffered what it described as a “short-term issue with specific contracts.”

Commenting on the results and the ToBRFV outbreak, Managing Director Chris Butler said, “This was the first time we have encountered any such problem. It’s uninsurable, resulting in a one-off loss of our own production, the cost of procuring against the shortfall and the cost of extensive cleaning and a complete re-stock of the glasshouse.”

The company said that Defra inspections in 2020 have since confirmed the virus has been eradicated from the affected glasshouse, and that future prospects for domestic crops are brighter. A continued demand uplift alongside strong prices and limited availability of imported crops owing to the virus hitting as the UK’s import season drew to a close, meant the financial outlook for the year since the results was “much more positive”, Butler said.

“The crops have been excellent, with light conditions particularly in spring 2020 bringing superb-quality UK product to the market. Demand for peppers in particular has been very high, reflecting the versatility of the product as people prepare more meals at home,” he said. “Demand has stayed high, partly boosted by lockdown but also in the post-Brexit climate with consumers being increasingly aware of buying British and keen to support UK producers.”

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