In many European countries, the demand for asparagus is greater than the supply, mostly due to the impact of the cold in April, which slowed down the production.
The demand, however, is good, as more and more countries are allowing restaurants to reopen their doors. Also in the United States, the demand for asparagus is good, but prices stand at historically low levels. However, it seems that prices are rising again, now that stocks are decreasing.
The Netherlands: No surpluses on the asparagus market. Severe shortage of green asparagus
During the Dutch asparagus season, the demand has generally remained higher than the supply.
“You won’t hear many growers complaining about that. We haven’t had any supply peaks yet. At the same time, the demand remains at a good level. The demand from the retail has been good all season, and with the easing of the restrictions, the demand from the hospitality industry has increased quite a bit this week.
“Nobody has any stocks, so if every restaurant ordered just one case of asparagus, you’d already get a lot of trade. We can normally deliver good volumes and are also able to run campaigns together with the retail sector, but there are no surpluses, which is of course favorable for sales,” says a grower.
“We have seen severe shortages of green asparagus on the market throughout the season, but that has also been due to the weather conditions in Spain and elsewhere in Europe. The supply will increase a bit by the middle of next week at the earliest,” says the grower.
“Overseas exports are not yet at the level of 2019, but we appear to be on the right track. Exports in Europe are going well. The open ground supply is limited due to the cold weather, which makes asparagus extra popular.”
Belgium: Production gets off to a slow start
Belgium’s open ground asparagus season started 2.5 to 3 weeks later than normal. The month of April was one of the coldest in years, so production is slow to get going. The demand is at a good level, despite the fact that the catering industry is still closed.
Last weekend, the Belgian catering industry also opened its doors again. This could further stimulate the demand for asparagus. The auction prices for loose asparagus rose slightly last week, while the price for packaged asparagus fell.
Germany: Difficult start to the season
The start of the German asparagus season has been extremely difficult. Due to the cold wave and night frost, volumes are significantly lower, especially in the East German growing areas.
“We will only start harvesting the first asparagus from unheated cultivation next week,” says one grower.
In contrast to last year, German consumers also seem to have a smaller appetite for regional asparagus. Smaller volumes are being sold, which is said to have something to do with a decline in purchasing power.
Retail chains are trying to keep consumption going with relatively low prices. At the same time, there is a relatively large supply from the southern German growing regions (Bruchsal region and Munich), which is putting the market under pressure.
England: Asparagus season gets off to a slow start
Asparagus growers in England have started harvesting some small volumes. Production in tunnels is underway and, according to a grower in Colchester, very small quantities are coming from open ground cultivation.
The season has been slow to get going due to cold nights. Last week, freezing temperatures were recorded every morning, but no more frosts are forecast for this week. It has also been extremely dry.
January and February were very wet, but since then there has been very little rain and growers have needed to irrigate their crops. Warm days would be very welcome to promote asparagus growth, but good volumes are on the way.
The demand for asparagus is very high at the moment. The asparagus season runs until mid-June. The catering industry will be opening fully on May 17 and by then there should be a greater supply to meet the additional demand.
Italy: Shortages on the Italian market
This is not an easy asparagus season. “The latest frosts have had an impact on the crop’s growth. The mood among our producers is depressed. So much so, that they are very concerned about the future of asparagus cultivation in central Italy.
The current asparagus season has been slow to get going and the harvest is not yet fully underway. Since there is currently a product shortage in the Italian markets, high prices could be the only holdout for producers this year.
May is the asparagus month of choice in Italy, as the Spanish season comes to an end. That’s why I hope there will be no drop in prices, so that we can at least end May with dignity, as we did in 2016,” said a sales manager of a cooperative.
In Calabria, an organization of producers grows green asparagus of the Sunlim F1 variety on about 2 hectares in the open ground. “At the moment, the sale of green asparagus is going well and there is a high demand.”
Spain: Demand for green asparagus exceeds the supply
The Spanish green asparagus season started in March, about 3 weeks later than the previous one, when the harvest had kicked off unusually early.
Since the beginning of the season, the production has been scarce and the demand has far exceeded the supply. This is due to the lack of rainfall in Granada, the main growing area in Spain, during the fall and winter, as well as to the lower temperatures this spring.
The asparagus acreage has also declined over the past two years due to some difficult seasons marked by oversupply and low prices. Other producing countries in Europe also have small productions this year, so Spain still dominates the European markets with its small volumes.
Italy is Spain’s biggest competitor, but this year its limited harvest is being absorbed by the domestic market and it is even importing Spanish asparagus.
Therefore, prices are quite high and are not expected to fall for the rest of the season, which will finish in about a month. By that time, some limited volumes will start to arrive from Peru. The limited supply is a result of global problems in the logistics sector.
United States: Historically low asparagus prices
A California-based trader says that the season is ending in Caborca, Mexico, the main asparagus-growing area over the past two months, although other Mexican growing regions are stepping up.
“Mexico basically grows asparagus all year round. Right now there is cultivation in Baja California, Obregón, San Luis, Washington, and soon Central Mexico, Michigan and New Jersey will also start.” He says that in California, the asparagus acreage continues to decline.
When it comes to the demand, 2021 has seen good so far. The trader says that there has been a strong focus on asparagus in the food retail in recent months, given the high profit margins.
“Retailers will continue to profit from the momentum built during this corona era, even though many people have needed to control their expenditure. This will continue to have an impact.”
Looking ahead, the reopening of the foodservice industry will likely win back some business from the food retail, but not enough to significantly affect this segment.
As for prices, they have been historically low lately. “Prices are rising and coming back to normal levels due to the reduction in the supply from Caborca,” says the trader.
China: The coronavirus has had a negative impact on prices and acreage
The negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic has led to a reduction of both the acreage devoted to asparagus in the country and the price paid for the crop.
The total asparagus acreage nationwide stood at approximately 90,000 acres in 2020; a 5% reduction compared to 2019.
The total turnover generated by asparagus in the domestic market reached nearly USD 2.5 billion (over EUR 2.06 bln); down 19% from 2019.
According to statistics from the Beijing Xinfadi wholesale market, the fluctuation pattern of wholesale prices in 2020 was roughly similar to that of 2019. Material costs, land costs and labor costs increased significantly, affecting growers’ net profit.
The asparagus acreage in China is expected to decline slightly over the next 1-2 years. As the popularity of growing asparagus under glass increases and the application of smart growing technology become more common, the total asparagus production will continue to grow.