After a bad year, Germany’s asparagus farmers are starting the new season in a calm mood.
The German Farmers Association warns that asparagus and strawberries could one day disappear from domestic farms due to cheaper foreign imports. “Last year, some strawberry and asparagus fields were no longer harvested,” said Joachim Rukwied, President of the Farmers’ Association. “Due to exorbitantly rising costs and cheap imports from abroad, production was no longer worth the effort.”
Harvest is expected to begin towards the end of March, says Claudio Gläßer of Agrarmarkt-Informations-Gesellschaft in Bonn. “There won’t be any German asparagus on the market before this one.” The first asparagus of the season is grown under foil in heated fields. “Whether it’s worth it to our farmers depends on crop yields on the one hand and the market and price situation on the other,” Rukwied said.
Asparagus and strawberries: Last season many German farmers struggled to get rid of their goods:
Farmers association discusses imported asparagus and minimum wage
Last year, the producer associations in Germany started the season in a good mood with hopes for higher prices. Instead, there were sales problems as citizens, disturbed by the war and inflation in Ukraine, saved money on their grocery shopping. Supermarket chains increasingly imported cheaper foreign asparagus. Rukwied warned:
“Our companies also bear the brunt of the 12 euro minimum wage, which has increased in European competition,” Rukwied said. “There is a real danger that as a result of this the production of asparagus and strawberries will disappear in Germany.”
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Good harvesting robots are expensive
Nils Kraushaar of the Lower Saxony Chamber of Agriculture said that due to rising labor costs, further mechanization of harvesting is becoming more and more a problem for the industry. According to Kraushaar, losses are still very high with currently available machinery, but more precise harvesting robots are too expensive. For this reason, the chamber is working on improved cultivation methods to make the machines easier to use.
Depending on the region and the weather, the harvest does not start at the same time in all places. Asparagus needs warmth. “We’re assuming there will be asparagus at Easter, but that will be decided in the next few weeks,” said Fred Eickhorst, managing director and board spokesman of the association of asparagus and fruit growers in Lower Saxony. He assumes planting area may shrink this year. “I believe we will harvest 10 to 15 percent less field than last year,” Eickhorst says. The South German Asparagus and Strawberry Growers Association also expects the first quantities of regional asparagus to go on sale before Easter.
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