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Alexander Willemsen (Zegra) talks about trends on the asparagus market

"Rising demand for green asparagus, both commercial and for propagation"

About five years ago Andre and Alexander Willemsen took over the Zegra company: Since then, the production capacity in the breeding of asparagus young plants could be increased considerably. Today the brothers run a healthy, growing company on the German-Dutch border with 150 hectares of asparagus cultivation and about 35 hectares of young asparagus plants. Especially in the area of green asparagus, the potential is far from exhausted, Alexander Willemsen explains in an interview.

The current company comprises of two farms, in Vlodrop in the Netherlands and in Wassenberg on the German side of the border. "On our German farm, we grow most of the young plants on virgin soil: In spring we have to wait a bit longer before we can lift because of the heavy soil. But on the whole we have high-quality young plants." Next year, the ambitious brothers will once again expand capacity. Because a good 500 metres from the current location in Wassenberg, a completely new plant is to be built, they reveal.

The asparagus fields of the family business cover a total of 150 hectares. White asparagus is cultivated on approx. 110 hectares, green asparagus thrives on around 30 hectares. In addition, there are 10 ha of young plants. The young plants are sold in Germany as well as to other European countries.

Pioneer in the green asparagus sector
In general, the asparagus market is rather oversaturated, observes Willemsen, although green asparagus is suddenly gaining in importance. "In my view, there is a rapidly increasing demand for green asparagus. Back then - 20 years ago - we were among the first to enter the green asparagus cultivation business. We do not take green asparagus of the Backlim, Gijnlim and Cumulus varieties from old plants either, because this is the only way we can meet the quality requirements of the food retail trade. In addition, our green asparagus also goes to auction in Belgium". However, there has also been an increased demand for green asparagus in direct marketing: "Because of Corona, more young people have come to our stands and we have been able to sell double the quantities."

Sorting the young asparagus plants

Green asparagus is also rapidly making inroads into German and international cultivation in terms of propagation. "Although green asparagus only accounts for 20 percent of our young plants to date, we are seeing encouraging growth rates. Every second request is for green asparagus at the moment."

Alexander Willemsen and Ms Jakobs during expoSE 2018 in Karlsruhe / Picture:

Extraordinary asparagus campaign
All in all, the management of Zegra LLC looks back with satisfaction on this year's asparagus campaign, although the Corona pandemic will also be remembered by the family business for a long time. "We had to get by with considerably fewer personnel this year. In March, we already had to consider which surface to cover with foil so that it could be harvested later. In the end, we failed to harvest about 20 percent of the tonnage. In retrospect, we could have tried it to harvest there, but once the season has started, a plot can no longer be activated.

Asparagus plant of the company Zegra

As producer, propagator and consultant, the services of Zegra LLC  cover all stages of the asparagus value chain, from the plant to the commercial product. Above all, Willemsen is rather sceptical about the rich diversity of varieties. "We have seen so many varieties come and go in recent years. In recent years, seed breeders have developed some great varieties that have been successful in the market. All in all, we are well supplied for the time being in terms of variety: We have early to late varieties of appropriate quality. We only want to launch varieties that have an added value for the industry."

For more information:
Zegra Spargelwelt GmbH & Co. KG
Alexander Willemsen
Zollstr. 50a
41849 Wassenberg
Tel.: 0 24 32 - 89 27 34
Fax: 0 24 32 - 89 27 35

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