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Influenced by the weather trends

Italy: 2012 asparagus campaign starts

The 2012 asparagus campaign is starting and FreshPlaza asked Luciano Trentini (see pictured) - President of "Euro Asper", Association of European asparagus producers - for an analysis of the situation.

"We hope the new season will give great satisfaction to the producers, although in some areas, especially in Northern Italy, the low rainfall is likely to reduce production. It is necessary to verify the need to intervene case-by-case with water intakes, it is better to use drip systems, to avoid soil compaction."

2011 statistics show: "Asparagus areas in Italy – explained by Trentini - show a good production record, thanks to a good consumer demand and to the discrete commercial performance of the past years. In 2011 6,300 hectares of asparagus were cultivated, with a production of over 45,000 tonnes."

"A reduction in imports was recorded of 4,300 tonnes in 2011 with an average price between 2.5 and 3 Euro. In contrast, exports have gained an important market share over time, going from 1,000 tonnes in 2000 to 3,500 tons in 2011, with an interesting export price, higher than 3 Euro/kg, with peaks up to 4 Euro."

"Market prices for green asparagus have grown in Northern Italy, in the growing season from April to June they were relatively stable and ranged between 2 and 3.5 Euro, depending on the offer. Higher prices are achieved by producers of early asparagus, cultivated in Neapolitan greenhouses, and of the white ones grown exclusively in the areas of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia".

We must underline that this production is used and valued not only in Spring but also in Autumn, although still modest in quantity, and with a range of prices considerably wider and more variable depending on product availability. Prices in this case are very unstable, between 3 and 4 Euro/kg.

Italy is Europe’s leader in green asparagus cultivation, while competitor countries (Germany, Spain, etc.) focus mainly on the production of white asparagus.

"Compared to other vegetables – continues Luciano Trentini – for its peculiarities the asparagus maintains the characteristics of a niche market, with still very modest quantities purchased by consumers. Considering the value of purchased vegetables and the short interval of about two months, the asparagus represents in terms of volume less than 2%, while in value, this percentage rises to 3.5%, showing a high quality of our production."

A production that over time has been able to maintain or even increase its admirers. Consumption grew from 19,500 tonnes in 2000 to 22,500 in 2011. This is an increase that satisfied producers and consumers of quality asparagus grown in Emilia-Romagna and that has found a recognition under the name recognized by the European Union "green asparagus of Altedo PGI" (pictured above).

Other regions took the same road, such as Veneto, getting community recognition "White asparagus of Cimadolmo PGI", "green and white Asparagus of Badoere PGI" and "White asparagus of Bassano" (pictured below).

Trentini continues: "Asparagus lovers of either green or white or violet  - the most famous is that of Alberga - focus their attention towards this production mainly in the months of production, April - June, where they can be bought in bundles packaged by 0.5 kg or 1 kg."

The asparagus, which has to be sold fresh and with the heads well closed, has considerable potential in the domestic market. It is one of the vegetables with low index penetration of families, namely the value expressed as a percentage of Italian families who have bought asparagus at least once in the year is still very low: a little less than 40%.

"With an additional and appropriate product promotion - asparagus is relatively unknown by young consumers - strong possibilities of development for the high quality areas could derive," the President of the Euro Asper adds. "The confirmation of this is given by the increase of the index penetration of the latter decade, equal to 10 percentage points.”

National production areas are well identified in two places, one in Northern Italy in Veneto (24% of production) and Emilia-Romagna (13%) and the South, Puglia (24%) and Campania (22%). These different productive areas for soil and climatic characteristics, which are able to provide quality productions intended mainly to the fresh market.

"We must remember – points out Trentino - Italy had an important past in the transformation of fresh asparagus to frozen. In a commercial system that has always favoured quality, it is necessary to re-evaluate this opportunity that could become an important control instrument in the market. Creating a better programming of the offer that guarantees continuity, it would keep a sufficiently remunerative price to the producer."

Some of these issues, related to the production, distribution and consumption of asparagus, will be brought to the attention of the European producers, during the 9th Euro Asper Congress, from March 21st to March 23th in Granada, Spain.

Publication date: 3/22/2012


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