Every year, Nespar sets up new farms and plantations. “Asparagus fields usually last for 10 years. You can’t indefinitely replant the same field. We started out with an acreage of 70 hectares in 1994, but we now we have more than doubled that. Our current acreage amounts to 160 hectares.” The main growing region is Kavala, though Konstantinos mentions there are some fields in northern parts of Greece as well in Evros and some fields in southern in Messolonghi.
Demand for asparagus is increasing in all markets. “We need to follow what markets demand. German consumers are focused on high quality white asparagus. Germans consume asparagus like us Greeks consume tomatoes. The level of consumption is high and German consumers are well aware of how to cook asparagus."
Nespar mainly supplies to wholesalers, taking advantage of the fact that the Greek season precedes the seasons of most other producing countries. “We were able to secure GlobalGAP certificates for our production, as without that it is impossible to compete in the market. Prices depend on the season. They can differ from day to day. It is very important to be able to supply large volumes in the month of March, as the prices tend to be very good in that time frame. As soon as lots of volumes of German asparagus hit the market, the prices will lower for our produce.”
Though the Netherlands have a well-established sector asparagus as well, Dutch asparagus doesn’t give any competition. “As far as I know, the Netherlands consume their own production. Dutch growers won’t export their asparagus as much as Greek exporters do. We export 100% of our production, and the Dutch only export a fraction of their total volumes.” Also we are in the market earlier than Dutch.
The annual Nespar production of asparagus amounts to 1 million kg. As far as Konstantinos is concerned, there really isn’t such a thing as domestic competition for the export of asparagus. “It is important to realize that we all represent Greek asparagus. We need to be united to work with the world market."
In the last couple of years, the Greek sector for asparagus has seen a rise in production. “From 2005 to 2010, Greek asparagus growers had issues regarding prices. A lot of producers were unable to turn a profit, which prompted them to stop with production altogether. However, in the last couple of years prices have been good. One of the reasons for this is that Peru was unable to achieve large volumes and that the quality of Peruvian asparagus wasn’t that good.”
Konstantinos thinks that production volumes are going to increase as more Greek farmers are going to plant asparagus. The main market will still be Germany.
While Nespar is mainly focused on white asparagus, the company has done trials with green asparagus as well. “The main challenge with green asparagus is that you can’t as easily reach high volumes like with white asparagus. However, the main advantage for green asparagus is shelf life. Green asparagus can last up to 15 days, which allows for long transit times to distant markets. White asparagus can only be sent by plane for long distances”. Also green asparagus is much more famous than the white one.
If you want to plant green asparagus it is very important to choose the most suitable varieties for your region in order to reach high production per hectare. "White varieties can be easily grown and give a larger yield. With green asparagus, you need to be really cautious in choosing the right variety. In the end we would like to use about 10% to 15% of our acreage for green asparagus.”
Currently, Nespar is involved with marketing apricots. “Our next asparagus season is set to begin at the end of next February,” says Konstantinos in conclusion.
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