At the beginning of the lockdown, the market for pleasure products collapsed completely. Like the strawberry, the asparagus was declared to be in short-term crisis. “But looking back, the few positive points which played a role during this campaign should not be underestimated,” explains Astrid Etèvenaux of the Asperges de France PDO.
For some producers in the southwest, the asparagus campaign started at the beginning of February. “Our last members ended their season last week. Overall, the quality was very good, with nice calibers even late in the season.”
Besides the good quality, sales were stimulated by a close cooperation between all actors of the sector. Supermarkets, the Interfel inter-branch organization and organizations like Asperges de France communicated a lot about the asparagus in order to educate consumers. Moreover, the French origin was promoted in the stores, “in addition to the fact that, after a few weeks on lockdown, consumers turned more to pleasure products again, and the demand increased progressively.”
According to Astrid, the fact that supermarkets promoted the French origin was beneficial for producers as well as for the stores, which eventually achieved a nice campaign. “It would be interesting to anticipate and work on the 2021 season in order to renew these winning partnerships, including with wholesalers, serving the consumers who are looking, above all, for a local product of good quality.”
Asperges de France represents actors from the southwest, southeast and the Loire Valley. “For the producers from the southwest, who were reaching their production peak at the beginning of the lockdown, the start of the season was terrible. Around mid-March, they were not able to sell their products. We estimate that approximately 15% of their expected volumes were lost during this period. Some producers even chose not to start their season this year.”
The asparagus from the Loire Valley and the southeast arrived later on the market, in April. “These regions were able to benefit from the promotional actions put in place to boost the demand. In this regard, their situation has been less negative than for the producers from the southwest. However, the weather conditions were not always ideal. Moreover, the business partnerships were severely disrupted by the closure of restaurants, a significant distribution channel for this sector. Finally, all operators had to respect the distancing rules in packing stations, which inevitably led to additional costs. I admit that I was impressed by the resilience shown by all actors of the sector,” concludes Astrid who, as the head of the PDO since the end of 2019, had just experienced her first asparagus campaign.