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Saxon asparagus farmers hope for sunshine

Asparagus cultivation workers cover an asparagus stem with foil / Photo: Sebastian Kahnert/dpa
Asparagus cultivation workers cover an asparagus stem with foil / Photo: Sebastian Kahnert/dpa

In many households, the first asparagus from the region is traditionally served at Easter. Whether this will work this year is uncertain due to the weather.

The asparagus farmers in Saxony are in the starting blocks and are hoping for sunny weather in the coming days. "It also depends on whether we have the first asparagus for Easter," said René Heidig, head of Agrar GbR Naundörfel in the district of Meißen. If the weather is cool and rainy, asparagus fans will have to be patient. As a rule, 18 to 20 degrees are ideal for the plant to grow continuously and achieve good quality. In order to control the heating of the asparagus stems and thus the harvest quantity, the company's ten hectares of cultivation area are covered with foil. "When the sun is shining, it can get up to 30 degrees between the tunnel foil and the asparagus stem," explained Heidig. However, the sun has to shine for this to happen.

The farmers are currently in the process of covering the last areas with special foil - the work should be completed in the coming days. Heidig and his helpers have been busy building and covering dams since the end of February. "As we have sandy soil in the Elbe Valley, we haven't had any problems with waterlogging like in other regions," said Heidig. The foil is rolled up every year after the season, stored in the dark and rolled out again track by track in the spring. "The film can be used for more than 20 years."

Heidig expects the price per kilo for the popular vegetable to rise this year. He cites increased energy and operating costs as well as the rise in the minimum wage as reasons. At the height of the season, around 20 to 25 harvest workers are employed in the fields. Asparagus cultivation is mainly manual work, said Heidig.

However, Gemüsebau Kyhna KG, a company from northern Saxony, has stopped growing asparagus. "There are several reasons for this," said an employee, without giving details. In an interview with the "Leipziger Volkszeitung" newspaper, the managing director spoke of high price pressure, among other things. Supply and demand no longer matched.

"Cost pressure has increased in all farms in recent years," said Jürgen Schulze, Managing Director of the Association of East German Asparagus and Berry Growers. However, there is no general trend towards asparagus growers giving up. Such a decision could also have internal reasons, emphasized Schulze. In general, the association is optimistic about the new season. For the first time in years, the soil is well moistened again and the conditions for asparagus are optimal. Regardless of whether the first asparagus spears can be harvested in Saxony at Easter or afterwards - "the quality is top."

Around 20 farms grow asparagus in Saxony. According to preliminary estimates from the Federal Statistical Office, asparagus was grown on an area of around 100 hectares last year and around 400 tons were harvested. The Free State is one of the smallest asparagus-growing regions in Germany. The stalked vegetable is mainly harvested in Meißen and around Bautzen. Traditionally, the harvest ends around June 24.

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