British asparagus fills stores' capacity

Supermarkets report earliest ever 100 per cent British stock after warm April starts harvesting.

Asparagus

Supermarkets were able to stock 100 per cent British asparagus just a few days after the official start to the season on 23 April thanks to the unseasonably warm weather.

The vegetable's total takeover on the shelves was the earliest it had happened - with some suppliers reporting up to ten times the amount of stock than at the same time last year, the Asparagus Growers' Association (AGA) revealed.

Because of last month's warm weather, growers across the country have been harvesting their crops up to four weeks earlier than usual, meaning the short season, which finishes on 21 June, is experiencing unprecedented volumes for the time of year.

At the end of April last year only around 5 per cent of asparagus on retailers' shelves was British. Similar volumes were not seen until the middle of May, which brought a set of very different challenges for growers.

AGA member Chris Kitchen, a Lincolnshire-based asparagus grower with more than 20 seasons' experience, said: "To have such an abundance of asparagus so early in the season is incredible. In all my years of growing I've never seen anything like it.

"This time last year, the conditions were so cold we didn't have so much as a spear to pick. But as anyone in agriculture will know, the seasons are determined by the weather, not the date on the calendar."

He added: "This is the complete opposite and it's fantastic to see retailers demonstrating flexibility and offering promotions in store at a time when we have a plentiful supply of asparagus from all around the country."

BRITISH ASPARAGUS - HEALTHY GROWTH IN DOMESTIC SALES FIGURES

Over the past 10 years, the number of households buying British asparagus during the domestic season has risen from fewer than two per cent to more than 16 per cent, and the stellar start to the 2011 season looks set to increase this further.

Lincolnshire-based grower Chris Kitchen said: "The fact that we are affected so profoundly by the weather highlights the seasonality of our crop. We may have good volumes this week, but a change to colder, wetter conditions could mean that in a couple of weeks' time there may be less around.

"Fortunately, asparagus is one of those crops that is keenly anticipated, and it's wonderful to be able to offer a feast rather than a famine at this time of year. It's been a tremendous start to the season, and with so many ways to enjoy it, I expect even these huge volumes won't be around for long. British growers urge consumers to feast while they can."


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