A not inconsiderable proportion of the asparagus consumed in Germany during the asparagus season does not come from domestic fields, but from abroad. Last year, 19,500 tons of the asparagus were imported fresh or cooled into Germany - almost 29 percent less than in the previous year, according to the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis). The majority (87 %) was imported between March and June, when farmers in this country also offer their asparagus. The most important country of origin was Spain with a 34 % share of asparagus imports, followed by Greece with 24 % and Italy and Peru with 12 % each. Comparatively little asparagus is exported from Germany: 2,900 tons in 2022.
Harvest volume and acreage declining in 2022
Around 110,300 tons of asparagus were harvested in Germany last year - more than five times the amount imported. Compared with the previous year, the harvest thus fell by just under 8 %. Less asparagus was last harvested in 2013, when 103,100 tons were harvested. At 25,300 tons, most asparagus was harvested in Lower Saxony in 2022, followed by North Rhine-Westphalia with 20,300 tons and Brandenburg with 18,700 tons.
One reason for the lower asparagus harvest is presumably the decline in cultivation area. Asparagus was produced on 21,300 hectares last year, which was just under 5 % less than in 2021 and the lowest figure since 2015, when the harvestable area under asparagus had been 20,600 hectares. Despite the decline, asparagus was still the vegetable with the largest acreage in Germany in 2022, ahead of onions (15,100 hectares) and carrots (13,600 hectares). There was a slight increase in the purely organically farmed area under cultivation for asparagus - by 2 % compared to the previous year to 1,600 hectares in 2022.
Asparagus producer prices highest in April
The first asparagus from the warmer regions of Germany is available in March at the earliest, but usually in April. At that time, it is still rather expensive. In April 2022, producer prices for asparagus were higher than at any time since January 2015. Asparagus was 28.6 % more expensive in April last year than in the previous month; compared to April 2021, it cost a good third (34.5 %) more.
Growing regions start the season with different prospects
From this week, the first regional asparagus will be available for purchase, according to SWR. Despite the energy crisis, prices are not expected to rise. However, larger quantities will probably only be available after Easter. Prices are not expected to rise further this year. Depending on the class, estimates Neuenstadt asparagus farmer Nikolaus von Mentzingen, you will probably have to pay 10 to 20 euros per kilo.
The first early asparagus "Prius" is cut at the Buchmann farm in the Lower Rhine region. The approximately 60 asparagus farmers in the Lower Rhine region are hoping for good business. The price per kilo had risen sharply in recent years, starting this year at around 10.00 euros. Premium spears currently go for around 19.90 euros per kilo over the store counter. In order for the asparagus spears to achieve the desired quality, it is important to match the right harvest period, asparagus farmer Dirk Buchmann tells WDR. "If the spear is out for several days, it will eventually press against the film and become crooked as a result," he explains. Then the asparagus yields less.
"The problem is that everyone gets the minimum wage, including the harvest worker, and we are also competing there with other European countries, where the minimum wages are significantly lower well below €5. This is a strong distortion of competition," reports Peter Strampe-Münster from the eponymous asparagus farm in Neetze near Lüneburg to RTL. Although he is cautiously optimistic about the future, he also knows that it will be difficult to prevail.
He is running the family business in the third generation. Last year was not easy for the business, with revenues falling by 20 percent. Due to the Ukraine conflict and the associated rising costs, more attention is being paid to money - this was clearly felt in the customers' desire to buy, says Peter Strampe-Münster.
On Monday, asparagus farmer Christian Schiebel from Pörnbach supplied the Munich wholesale market with asparagus for the first time this year, he tells the Augsburger Allgemeine. "With this, we are even unusually late this year." He and his team usually get started as early as the 11th calendar week, in other words, in mid-March. The rainy March delayed the start a little, says the farmer. "We'll probably go completely without film by the end of April."
The first Hessian asparagus could be harvested as early as the beginning of April, reports Sebastian Würfl, owner of the Gründau family business. Whether that will be enough for the early Easter this year, he can not yet estimate: "It will be relatively tight due to the changeable weather." Larger harvests, however, are guaranteed after the holidays, he says. "We have already laid the earth dams in the spring, the season preparation is running at full speed," the owner told the Osthessen Zeitung.
A cost explosion in asparagus as with other foods is not to be feared, assures Würfl: "The price will rise a little bit, but it will be within limits." The price in the previous year remained unchanged to 2021, he emphasizes: "We would have had to take higher prices last year already."
"We will not increase the prices, then no one will buy the asparagus," tells Gabriele Plötze from Griebener Hof in Saxony-Anhalt to AZ Online. She cites the increased minimum wage as the biggest challenge for the farm, but is nevertheless confident about the season that is about to start. "The sales were there last year, too," she adds.