Asparagus is 'affordable luxury'

Asparagus growers are promoting their crop as "a luxury you can afford" for the UK season, which traditionally runs from 23 April (St George's Day).

"It's hard to say what effect the recession may have on sales but early orders are making us optimistic," said new British Asparagus Growers' Association (BAGA) chairman Andy Allen. "People still seem to want small luxuries."

Pam Lloyd PR, which handles promotional activity for BAGA, is publicising the idea that eating seasonally can be economic and highlights the average cost of £1.49 for a bundle of asparagus.

Recipes targeted at the consumer press show how asparagus can be incorporated in a meal for four that costs under £10. Pam Lloyd PR partner Dieter Lloyd said: "We are using the idea that people are cutting costs by eating in rather than going to restaurants."

The season kicked off with a Great British Asparagus Run, starting from Evesham, Worcestershire, on St George's Day (Thursday). The growers' association campaign is also supporting a number of local asparagus festivals around the UK.

Last year, the campaign achieved coverage of almost 200 national and regional press articles during the season, equivalent to almost £1m of advertising space, and reached around 15 million people through TV and radio broadcasts.

Allen, who grows about 61ha of asparagus on his 486ha Norfolk arable farm, said the crop was likely to be ready a little earlier than last year, although most growers' yields would probably be down due to poor light levels.

"The rapid increase in planted area has slowed and we are probably reaching a plateau," he said. "This has partly been because of the fall in the value of the pound. Crowns from Europe have gone up in cost by 30 per cent."


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