Despite the difficulties caused by COVID-19 that affected the Spanish asparagus sector in mid-March, the sector has closed one of its best campaigns thanks to the consolidation of Spanish green asparagus in the Central European market, as countries such as Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom trust in its quality.
The asparagus production kicks off in late February and the peak in the demand is usually reached just before Easter. This year, this coincided with the outbreak of the pandemic and the start of the lockdown, which caused an 80% drop in the demand for green asparagus and therefore falling prices. However, according to Manuel Garcés, who is Rubus, Garlic and Asparagus Product Director at Planasa, “the good reputation of our product has saved the campaign. The coronavirus crisis has had a strong impact, but fortunately only during the last two weeks of March."
Some 14,000 hectares of asparagus are cultivated in Spain (with more than 11,000 hectares of green asparagus). These are mainly located in Andalusia, where green asparagus is the most common, and Navarre, which cultivates the white variant. Granada practically monopolizes the Andalusian sector with some 7,000 hectares that yield 40,000 tons of green asparagus, 72% of which were exported in 2019.
One of the main players in the Spanish asparagus sector is Planasa, whose latest variety, the Darvador, is starting to gain a foothold in the market. “Last season, it showed to be the earliest variety on the market, but we must take into account that asparagus is a crop that needs three or four years to reach its full potential,” says Garcés.
According to Garcés, the Darvador offers “more durable plantations, a more homogeneous production and no disparity in sizes. Another aspect that producers like very much is that there is no seed; no plant germinates in the ground, and the handling and harvesting are easier. All this results in lower costs and therefore a higher profitability."
To be ready for the future, Planasa has a line of research for the genetic improvement of varieties. The most desirable characteristics are earliness, size and quality, and the goal is to improve existing varieties. “Our objective is to completely renew our range of varieties in a period of about 5-6 years,” says Manuel Garcés. Due to the increase in the demand for the plant, it seems that the acreage will remain stable in 2021, with a slight upward trend.