Keen for some great publicity for polytunnels in the face of their critics, the NFU has hailed them as the saviour of the British strawberry crop.

The crop, it claims, could have been ruined had it not been for polytunnels protec­ting it from the unusually heavy rain during the critical fruiting time of May.

In an average year, 40% of the strawberry crop will be damaged by rainfall.

Anthony Snell, NFU horti­cultural board member, said: "Polytunnels have allowed British fruit growers to make huge dvances, both in saving the fruit from rain damage and in extending the season, which now lasts from May to October. British growers are now successfully competing with imports from Egypt and Spain, which has a big impact on the food miles that used to be attached to strawberries before June and after July."

As for the visual impact so detested by the neighbours, Snell said growers were addressing this by fitting plastics that reduced glare and shimmer.