Growers testify on weather damage

"I saw the tornado coming straight at me"

The first days of 2018 have been heavy ones. The tornado in Spain demolished two hundred hectares of greenhouses. It happened only three days after a storm in the Netherlands, where the 180 damage reports mostly came from the horticultural industry. So far the damage is 50 million euros in total.

The storm that passed over the Spanish horticulture region El Ejido last weekend demolished over 200 hectares of greenhouse acreage. According to Andrés Góngora, president of grower cooperative Coag, the cost of a hectare of greenhouse is about 150,000 euros in infrastructure. All in all, the total damage would thus be around 40 million euros.

The fact that no injuries nor deaths were reported is practically a miracle, seeing what damage has been done to the infrastructure. Due to Epiphany, most of the greenhouses were unoccupied. There was an exception though: pepper grower Manuel Matías, whose addiction to work nearly became fatal. He reveals how he survived the storm.

Always at work
Manuel Matías grows peppers and was present in his greenhouses on Saturday. "I saw the tornado coming straight at me. I hid under the truck, but because the eye of the tornado went right over the company, the truck was pulled up. I held on to it as I thought that this could well be the end."

Fortunately, that was not the case: Manuel Matías survived without physical injury. However, his greenhouse is in ruins. "But even so - I am still alive and I am grateful for that." The pepper harvest was only halfway. "I've been working hard since I was 8. I get this 'present' on Epiphany. There goes my life's work..."

Dutch damage
The Spanish destruction isn't the first of the year. Storm Eleanor hit the UK industry and the Dutch one severely on January 3rd already. In Netherlands, 7 to 10 million euros of damage was reported. 

"I was on holiday when the storm hit our greenhouse", says Dutch tomato grower Ferry Adegeest of TVA Growers. "My brother got the call around 4 in the morning. It immediate became clear that the damage was severe. The images were terrifying." 

One of their two greenhouse locations was hit. "We grow in two blocks over there. One of them was quite alright, but the other one... We counted over 600 broken windows on a 1.5 hectare greenhouse." 

More growers in the Bleiswijk region were hurt - more than ten greenhouses, according to estimates. Some of them only have to cope with a few broken windows, others have complete sidewalls being demolished.

Young plants
For Ferry and his brothers, having the greenhouse repaired quickly was a major concern: this Monday, the young plants were supposed to arrive. "Fortunately our location isn't too big, so in one of the blocks the repairs are done by now, and the new plants are in. The other block, with more severe damage, is being repaired next week." 

Plants are kept at the nursery till January 22nd. "They are set wide and provided with an extra ring and an extra stick. We'll see how the season will turn out." 

Like his Spanish colleague, Ferry is grateful as well - even though his company is partly in tatters. "There's no people injured and the young plants are safe so far. January 23rd everything will be green again. It could have been a lot worse." 

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