The Royal Highland Show, last week, was a welcome change of scene from the daily grind at home and a rare chance to catch up with fellow farmers from across the land.

As a one-year director, I had an opportunity to have a brief look under the bonnet and much like the engine of a car, the complexity of it leaves me baffled, but impressed. None of it makes any sense at first sight, yet somehow the car moves forwards.

Of course, there were glitches, but the management team are incredibly dedicated and put a huge amount of thought and effort into what they do. There will be a thorough debrief and I have no doubt that the creases will be ironed out next year.

After a two-year hiatus, I think it was remarkable what chairman, Bill Gray, and the rest of the team achieved. For me, it was a real privilege to be involved in stewarding the heavy horses and helping out in the food hall.

While the show might be in good heart, I’m afraid the soft fruit industry is not. Growers have had good crops in June, and marketing groups negotiated sensible price increases with retailers.

Instead of shouldering some of the extra cost, however, the retailers passed the increase directly on to customers. The weather in June was mixed in England and coupled with the price increase, shoppers bought less, which then led to a lot of fruit being sold at a cheap price in the wholesale markets, leaving growers worse off than ever.

Sales have been good in the past week or so with Wimbledon now upon us, but much now hangs on the next two months and growers’ confidence is fragile. Soft fruit growing involves big outgoings, and when the income is uncertain it all starts to look a bit like high stakes gambling.

It was no surprise then, to hear that growing co-operative, Berry Gardens, cashed in some of its chips and sold its marketing arm to the huge American global berry company, Driscolls. I suggested to a Berry Gardens grower that this indicated a lack of confidence in the future and he didn’t disagree with me.

We are all up the same creek, along with pig, egg and poultry farmers, looking for a paddle.

Regardless of what happens for the rest of this summer, soft fruit production in Scotland is almost certain to contract, as growers tighten their belts. Plants from Holland are hugely expensive and rather than replant old crops, a safer option might be to leave tunnels empty for the time being, particularly given the severe shortage and extra cost of labour forced upon growers by UK government.

Just a reminder that the 'Seasonal worker pilot' forces growers to pay 60p over the minimum wage. The justification given for this at the Highland Show, last week, by Alister Jack was that seasonal workers under the scheme are paying more rent than seasonal workers with a right to stay and work here. I don’t know where the Secretary of State for Scotland heard this, but he is misinformed.

This is a wholly unnecessary extra cost pushing many soft fruit businesses into unprofitability when combined with the huge rises in the cost of fuel, fertiliser, packaging, plants and just about anything else you can think of.

We had successfully argued this with the Scottish Office to the extent of them writing to the Home Office to ask them to at the very least delay the forced rise. But, of course, the request was denied, leaving most, if not all fruit growers wondering how they are not going to lose money this year. Picking continues in hope, rather than faith.

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James Withers and Mairi Gougeon’s initial food security report came out last week and it acknowledged the severity of the situation and the very real prospect that ‘short-term cash-flow issues could hamper future choices made by individual businesses that could, otherwise, help the sector. Businesses could cut back on planned investment, (on automation for example) or farmers could consider it 'too expensive to grow crops.’

The Taskforce correctly identified the heart of the issue, but hamstrung by its own limited remit and the power of the retailers, it was unable to offer more than platitudes: "The Taskforce noted the efforts being made by retailers to keep prices as low as possible for shoppers during a cost of living crisis, however, there is a growing concern about the viability of the food supply chain in Scotland and our future production capacity.

"The consumer interest, the economy and the retail sector all depend on a vibrant supply chain and so the Taskforce would encourage retailers to continue to ensure they get the right balance in supporting suppliers and protecting consumers as far as possible from increasing prices," it said.

The age of the delicious, yet cheap British strawberry is over. The soft fruit sector is on the point of massive contraction. The only way for growers to make the sums add up is to grow less and sell it for much more.

Strawberries in Norway and Dubai cost £11 a punnet. My cousin sent me a picture of strawberries in New York this week costing £12.44 for 227g. Set this against Spanish cherries in the Co-Op last week priced at £1 for 200g.

All of this suggests to me that growers can’t win the race to the bottom when retailers shamelessly undercut seasonal fruit in this way. The only alternative is to look for the valuable niches at the top of the marketplace and that includes higher value export.

For the avoidance of doubt, I don’t think this is a good thing, because it means shoppers will be less able to afford home-grown fruit in season. We are rapidly exporting our fruit and veg production abroad and neither Scottish, nor UK the government is offering anything remotely practical to save home-grown production and ensure food security.