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Germany: 2022 asparagus harvest was worst in nearly a decade

March 28, 2023

The harvest saw an 8% drop over 2021 and had not been lower since 2013. Statisticians say the drop in productivity is a result of less land being dedicated to planting the vegetable.

Green asparagus in a farm field
Asparagus season is around the corner with farmers complaining about cheap imports and rising labor costsImage: D. Maehrmann/blickwinkel/picture alliance

Germany's Federal Statistical Office (StBA) on Tuesday released data showing a sharp decline in the amount of asparagus harvested in the country for the year 2022.

Statisticians calculated that the 2022 harvest of 110,300 tons represented an 8% drop over 2021, adding that the last time the harvest was that low was in 2013 (103,100 tons).

The StBA also found that exports saw an even more dramatic drop for the year, falling off 29% to 2,900 tons.

That fact led to Germany importing 19,500 tons of the vegetable, mainly from Spain (34%), though sizable amounts also came from Greece (24%) Italy and Peru (12% each). Most of those imports (87%) came between the months of March and June, when asparagus is naturally harvested.

"The reason for the more meagre asparagus harvest is likely tied to a drop in croplands," said statisticians, who noted a 5% drop in the area dedicated to cultivating asparagus compared to 2021.

Germany's most planted vegetable

Despite the drop, asparagus remains the most planted vegetable in the country in terms of overall acreage, occupying 21,300 hectares, followed by onions (15,100 hectares) and carrots (13.600 hectares).

Data also showed a 2% jump in the amount of asparagus grown organically.

Seasonal workers harvesting asparaus
The backbreaking task of harvesting asparagus often falls to poorly paid East European seasonal laborersImage: Weingartner/CHROMORANGE/imago images

Germany's largest asparagus-producing states are Lower Saxony, with 25,300 tons, North Rhine-Westphalia, with 20,300 tons, and Brandenburg, with 18,700 tons.

Field asparagus is harvested in March at the earliest, though the season generally begins in April and extends into June, traditionally until St. John's Day, marked on June 24.

"The first field asparagus from warmer regions in Germany comes in March at the earliest but generally not until April, when it is still comparatively expensive," said statisticians. Prices in April 2022 were the highest they had been since January 2015, and 34.5% higher than in April 2021.

Farmers say less land may be dedicated to asparagus in the future as a result of cheap imports and rising domestic labor costs — though critics have long pointed to the fact that German asparagus fields often teem with Eastern European laborers who deal with the backbreaking work of harvesting the sensitive vegetable for very low wages as a point of contention.

German asparagus harvest

js/fb (AFP, Reuters)