East German asparagus growers expect the asparagus price to increase moderately this year. “Prices will be based on those of the previous year, ie between 12 and 14 euros per kilo,” said Frank Saalfeld, director general of the East German Asparagus and Berry Producers Association (Vosba). At the start of the season, prices could certainly be higher locally.
Local asparagus is already sold in warmer regions, Saalfeld said. If the weather stays warm, the main harvest season could start in April. “Asparagus should already be available at Easter.” Last year, with significantly lower temperatures, the season for most East German asparagus growers did not start until after Easter.
Saalfeld is assuming a normal harvest at the moment. “At least the omens are good: warm days, cold nights. That’s good for asparagus. It grows more evenly there.” Currently, asparagus is developing particularly fast in the north of Saxony-Anhalt. The soil there is lighter and heats up faster than in Thuringia, for example.
In Brandenburg, the largest asparagus region in eastern Germany, asparagus growers are also hoping for an early harvest. The reason is the current mild climate, said Jürgen Jakobs, president of the Beelitz asparagus association. He pointed out that the first asparagus is always the most expensive. The longer the season lasts, the cheaper it gets.
Harvest workers: Uncertainty over Ukraine war
Mathias Schertenleib from the Schertenleib organic asparagus farm in Ostrau (Middle Saxony district) grows asparagus on heavy loamy loess soil in his region. This heats up more slowly, but then stores the heat longer. He assumes that the increase in diesel prices in particular will increase costs considerably. “We expect around 30 percent additional costs because we do all the field work with the tractors.” Some of this will no doubt be passed on to the end user.
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“Actually, prices should go up,” Vosba CEO Saalfeld said. However, the trade follows a policy that is “clearly designed in the direction of low prices.” In this respect, it is questionable whether the trade will bear the higher costs and pass them on to the consumer.
Energy prices and other costs, such as the increase in the minimum wage, have recently raised fears of a significant increase in prices. In addition, the war in Ukraine is also having an impact on urgently needed harvest workers in Eastern Europe. Until now, many companies have found it difficult to plan.
Asparagus producers complain about the increase in the minimum wage
A long-term price driver for producers could be the higher minimum wage next October. It is understandable that in the future you will have to pay twelve euros an hour for trained specialists. But companies would also have to pay unskilled workers and thus seasonal workers from other EU countries the increased hourly rate, several producers explained.
They warned of distortions in competition with other fruit and vegetable producing countries in Europe. In Spain, for example, the minimum wage is half the value provided for in Germany. There is no legal minimum wage in Italy.
The minimum wage in Germany is €9.82 an hour from January 1. On July 1 it rises to 10.45 euros as planned. Then a further increase to 12 euros per hour is planned from October 1. (dpa)