Minimum wage and weather with impact on the sector

Asparagus harvest returned to a normal level

The German asparagus season is coming. 2014 was a record year for the German asparagus industry. Around 114,500 tons of asparagus were cut between the 10th April and 24th June 2014. Now asparagus lovers wait feverishly for the 2015 season. Willy Kreienbaum from Spargelhof Kreienbaum and chairman of the asparagus association of North Rhine-Westphalia says: “Currently it is not really predictable, when we can start with harvesting. That depends mainly on the weather. We expect the start of harvesting of the tunnel systems for the end of March." Asparagus farmer Kreienbaum grows mainly asparagus for the food retail. 98 percent of its asparagus harvest goes to retailers. In addition, Kreienbaum exports his asparagus to Switzerland and some low volumes to the United States.

Chairman Willy Kreienbaum with the last two asparagus queens of North Rhine-Westphalia

The asparagus is missing the low temperatures
A long and cold winter usually leads to a delayed start of the season. Whereas short winters and mild temperatures lead to an early start. "At the moment, the asparagus growers are missing the low winter temperatures and the asparagus plants the cold stimulus”, Kreienbaum comments on the current weather conditions, “We do not expect a great “harvest peak” from the season start. The asparagus growers are always satisfied with a cold winter. Cold stimuli for the asparagus plant lead to an early harvest and usually a pretty good yield crop at the beginning. Further, currently it is too wet and the upcoming spring work cannot be done."

Harvest will be to eight percent below the previous year

In the second largest asparagus growing state in Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia, asparagus is grown on about 3,300 hectares of agricultural land. Only Lower Saxony grows more asparagus on 4,400 hectares. Through the mild weather conditions, this year's harvest will not reach the record of 2014. Willy Kreienbaum is certain: Last year, the yields were approximately ten percent higher than in the average years. Therefore, we expect a normal season this year again. This means, that the expected harvest amounts will probably be eight percent below last year."

The minimum wage has an impact on the asparagus sector
In the future the asparagus consumers will have to dig deeper into their pockets. The legally regulated minimum wage of the German federal government will have an impact on the asparagus growers. As a result, a price increase is expected, but it is still unclear how far it goes. “That is the big question”, reports the asparagus grower from Westphalia, “We have an increase of costs because of the minimum wage. As a result, the sales prices will be raised in the future by about ten percent. The question now is: Is it possible to enforce these prices to the food retail and the direct sales? For many companies, this is still a big question mark. Further, the growers ask themselves: How far it will be possible to give our costs in part or whole to the consumer?” During the past few years the asparagus acreage has steadily increased, the minimum wage will have on the long run a drastic impact on the industry. Kreienbaum reports: "Due to the increased cost based on the minimum wage, we expect that the asparagus acreage in Germany will decrease during the coming years.”

Willy Kreienbaum
Spargelhof Kreienbaum
Gröblinger Str. 62, 48336 Sassenberg-Füchtorf
Tel: 05426/ 2361

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