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Lurgan strawberry grower Fox faces £20k loss as floods swamp plant

By Chris McCullough

Published 19/01/2016

David Dunlop navigates around his friend Philip Fox’s field on a canoe
David Dunlop navigates around his friend Philip Fox’s field on a canoe
An aerial picture reveals the extent of flooding around the farm at Lough Neagh

Thousands of strawberry and lettuce plants damaged as a result of severe flooding in Northern Ireland are feared lost.

Philip Fox grows strawberries for a number of outlets on his Foxberry Fruit Farm in Derrytrasna near Lurgan, but this year's crop is threatened by three feet of floodwater.

He has 42,000 plants in the field which is submerged but the strawberry plants are above the water. However, they still might be lost as he cannot get near the plants to maintain them.

Mr Fox said: "We cannot get to the plants to cut off all the brown and yellow leaves to let this year's growth emerge.

"This is a routine task that must be done to reduce disease risk and should be carried out before the middle of January.

"The field is under three feet of water. Some people have been out with a boat among the plants to survey the damage.

"Lough Neagh is nearby and has shown record high levels of water this year.

"We will lose over £20,000 if we cannot salvage the plants. It's a terrible situation and one that could prove very costly indeed."

Mr Fox is not alone as the business next door has 70,000 lettuces currently under water.

Derrylard Nurseries near Maghery grows salads for all the major supermarkets in Northern Ireland, and it is feared it could lose business as a result of the floods.

Business owner Seamus Donnelly said: "We have around 70,000 lettuces in a polytunnel under water. I don't think they can survive the flooding which will cost us tens of thousands of pounds.

"The plants and fertiliser costs us £70 per thousand plants and there is the additional cost of planting them to consider as well.

"The bigger problem is that we could lose supply contracts with the supermarkets if we are unable to maintain a consistent supply to them.

"Even if we go and buy more lettuce to supply the supermarkets, we could end up losing money.

"We planted the lettuces in November and they were due for harvest in March but I am not sure if they will make it. It would be tough for them to survive.

"As it was a mild enough winter the plants came on well in growth but now they are ruined.

"The floods here are as bad as I have seen them. We have about 12 acres of plants in polytunnels and some of them are completely under water."

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