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Inspectors' fruitless Camel Valley visit cost 3,000'

Published:  23 July, 2008

by Stuart Peskett
The owner of Camel Valley winery in Cornwall has hit out at the way EU vineyard inspections are carried out, after four officials arrived to collect just 10 bunches of grapes.

Bob Lindo, boss of the Bodmin-based winery, told Harpers that he believed the cost of travel, accommodation and salaries for the officials could easily top 3,000. He also became embroiled in a dispute over payment, and alleged that one of the officials tried to hand him a 20 note as payment for the grape samples.

Two of the officials were from Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs); one was from the Food Standards Agency (FSA); and the fourth came from the Wine Standards Board, now part of the FSA. They were there to collect samples as part of an EU-wide survey to create a database of wineries and grape varieties.

Lindo said that he only had three weeks to harvest 150 tons of grapes, and for Defra to give him 36 hours' notice' was unacceptable: They were very vague about when they would turn up, and I was laughing about this image of bailiffs with secateurs. I'd have been more than happy to stick a few bunches of grapes in the post.'

He added that he did not accept the 20 because he thought that the officials were legally entitled to take the grape samples, and he was not actually selling them.

Despite Lindo's grievances, a Defra spokesman painted a very different picture of events, and alleged that the team of officials were actually refused entry' by Lindo, and that the 20 sum was a goodwill gesture' offered to him that Defra did not have to make.

He said that the Defra team was on a three-day visit, that they stayed at a local B&B', and that other than a subsistence allowance, any other costs come out of their own pocket'.

The spokesman added: The team wasn't down in the south-west for one visit - they actually visited five vineyards, and took samples from the other four. They can't really win. When they do go out and see people, they're vilified for it.'