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Producers face an uncertain season due to Corona

Asparagus season to start before Easter

That fact that Germany is a nation of asparagus lovers is reflected in all the figures. According to AMI, each German consumed around 1.2 kilograms of asparagus last year - preferably white asparagus (0.93 kg). For this, a household spent an average of 8.82 euros per kilo. While 89,800 tons of asparagus were harvested in Germany in 2010, the record year of 2018 showed 133,000 tons harvested, with Corona year 2020 showing 107,000 tons. Incidentally, Lower Saxony, although harvesting later, is still the absolute leader in asparagus cultivation. Almost 27,000 tons of the stalks came from there. It was followed by Brandenburg and North Rhine-Westphalia, each producing around 19,000 tons, and Bavaria with around 15,500 tons.

Highly popular: regional asparagus
German "top gourmets" love their regional and seasonal asparagus. That's why some 83.5% of the asparagus bought in Germany is grown on more than 22,000 hectares in this country. Spring is always an exciting time, and not only for gourmets, but also for the asparagus growers themselves. This is because the hotly anticipated start of the season is difficult to predict, as the situation is extremely weather-dependent. However, fine cracks on the top of the beds will reveal whether and which of the fresh shoots are ready. Carefully and by hand, the shoots must then be uncovered one by one before the special knife is applied at depth and the asparagus is pricked. This way, asparagus ridges are now searched daily for new sprouting spears.

Palatinate: 'Larger volumes only after Easter'.
Traditionally, the south is always a few days earlier than the north. But the look of the asparagus beds is promising all over Germany. In Brandenburg, the season is expected to start from April 8, i.e. at the end of week 14. Judith Beicht, product manager at Pfalzmarkt für Obst und Gemüse, is pleased about the start of the harvest: "In the Palatinate, the first asparagus has been harvested since week 12. Until Easter, smaller quantities are initially expected for sale in farm stores and at weekly markets. We expect larger harvest volumes, which will then be delivered to food retailers, soon after Easter."

Lower Saxony: 'First relevant volumes in week 15'
Walter Meyer, sales manager at Erzeugergroßmarkt Langförden-Oldenburg, is also optimistic regarding the northwest: ""For the time being, we are only expecting very small quantities of asparagus in week 13/14 due to the frost nights. The first relevant quantities for the food retail trade are expected in week 15. The farms still have respect for the current situation in terms of planning their seasonal labor. Sufficient seasonal workers have been requested, but whether they will all come will be seen when the time comes."

Baden: 'Uncertainty at the start of the season'
In the south, the omens are good for the start of the asparagus season. Hans Lehar, managing director at the Obst- und Gemüse-Absatzgenossenschaft Nordbaden sums up: "Despite the current wet days and low d temperatures, we expect the first deliveries from premature plants without soil heating in the week of Easter or just after that at the latest. Due to the "frosty" days of last week and the "cold stimulus" that has arrived at the asparagus root, it will quickly become active when the sun shines and temperatures rise."

At that point, the asparagus season will officially begin for the German asparagus-growing areas; both highly anticipated and met with concern, due to Corona. Lehar: "Will the urgently needed seasonal workers from Eastern Europe be available? Will the catering trade be allowed to reopen as an important sales channel? Will the much higher production costs due to social distancing and hygiene requirements in the accommodations and farms be covered by higher market revenues? Will we be spared from Corona infections and possible quarantine measures, and can the harvest be brought in on schedule? These are some of the questions that will occupy the entire agricultural sector in the coming weeks and months. However, there is a clear answer to one question: everyone is looking forward to the first asparagus dish made from freshly harvested asparagus from Germany."

NRW: 'Good volumes and quality expected'
In the west, too, people are mostly optimistic. "Due to the cold weather, the asparagus season in the west started around 14 days later than last year. Since the second week of March, the first Lower Rhine and Rhineland asparagus from heated cultivation has been available in stores," says Alexander Scheufen, Vegetable Sales Manager at Landgard West Obst & Gemüse. "From the end of March, our members will now also start harvesting field-grown asparagus under foil. Here, we expect good volumes and qualities in the West, so that, together with the farms in the Rhineland, the Lower Rhine and the Spreewald, we are looking positively into the asparagus season overall, despite the very challenging production conditions due to the Corona pandemic."

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