What Makes It Possible for the British to Enjoy Asparagus All Year Round?

Vegetables And Melons September 29, 2015
Author: Olga Minchina
Account Manager

The asparagus season in the UK is short, lasting from the end of April till the end of June, and due to the notoriously unpredictable British climate, on occasion it is even shorter. Asparagus is consumed in different states - from young and slender spires to thicker varieties with a more mature flavor.

While some European countries like Germany and France prefer consuming blanched white asparagus, Spanish and British consumers tend to opt for green asparagus, which unlike the white variety is grown in full light and possesses a pea-like flavor. Some gardeners cultivate purple and red asparagus, though these are less popular.

Asparagus cannot be called inexpensive, and there are reasons for it. It takes approximately 3 years to establish asparagus crowns that produce the spears. The spears, in turn, need to be hand-picked, owing to their fragility. White asparagus is even more challenging to pick and requires more time, as only the very tip of the asparagus peeps out from the soil, making it more difficult to locate.

Asparagus was not well-known to the British consumers until the 1980s, when imported asparagus began to appear in fine dining establishments. Lately, though, asparagus has become ubiquitous in British supermarkets, shops and restaurants. Overseas importers have made it possible for the British to consume asparagus all year round, so it is no longer perceived as a precious and seasonal crop.

British farmers believe their domestically grown asparagus to be unbeatable in freshness and flavor, though the harsh climate conditions there confines them to only approximately eight growing weeks a year. The majority of the UK's out-of-season asparagus comes from Peru. Shipped in chilled containers by air, the imported asparagus retains its freshness for the end consumer regardless of season. Because of this, British consumers have begun to count on asparagus being available on supermarket shelves across the UK well beyond the short domestic growing season.

The UK consumers' affection for the wonderfully versatile asparagus can be observed at an incredible number of fairs and festivals. From the Wirral and Yorkshire to Dorset and Sussex, asparagus-themed events are popping up everywhere across the country.

Asparagus is virtually fat-free and full of fiber and folic acid. It is also beneficial for indigestion thanks to inulin. Asparagus from Peru and Mexico can be found in supermarkets as early as February, while British asparagus can be found on the shelves only from April to June, at more than twice the price of the imported one.

In 2014, Peru (62%) and, distantly, Mexico (18%) and Spain (10%) were the leading suppliers of asparagus to the UK, together making up 90% in physical terms. The share of Mexico increased significantly (+14 percentage points), while the share of Peru illustrated negative dynamics (-10 percentage points). The shares of the other countries remained relatively stable throughout the analyzed period.

Ireland was the only destination of the UK's stable asparagus exports, holding a 74% share in the UK's total export volume in physical terms and a 93% share in value terms. In 2013-2014, the UK increased asparagus exports to France, which also took a significant share in the UK's total exports by the end of 2014.

Source: World: Asparagus - Market Report. Analysis And Forecast To 2020