Asparagus Yields High But Demand Low

Asparagus is abundant and affordable in the South Island due to the mild spring weather, but Auckland's lockdown is affecting demand, said one vegetable wholesaler.

A Countdown spokeswoman said there is plenty of asparagus in the South Island, and stores were selling bunches for $3.

However, the South Island is experiencing a bout of wet and cold weather, which could slow growth for the next few days, she said.

The North Island had a slow start to the seasons due to cooler weather, with the produce selling at $3.50 last week.

Supply was expected to increase in the coming weeks, she said.

Ajay Jina, the owner of Jina's World of Fresh Produce, said asparagus was a crop that surged and then stopped, depending on the weather. A cool snap, like the one last week, could affect supply. But growers had bigger problems.

The lack of demand from cafes, restaurants and hotels in the Auckland region meant South Island crops didn't have a big market when they would normally be flat-out.

Asparagus exporters were also facing issues with supply chain difficulties but had more visibility than domestic suppliers, said Jina.

The horticulture sector was already suffering from a severe labour shortage, and the uncertainty of the lockdowns left growers unsure about whether to plant crops.

A crop couldn't stop growing once it was planted due to lockdown, said Jina. The investment was already made.

Growers who export have more surety because the overseas markets are opening up. But it is difficult for domestic suppliers to gauge what the market is going to be like, said Jina.

Leaderbrand asparagus grower Mike Arnold said the farm in Chertsey had had very warm weather, and it was looking like a bumper crop.

Leaderbrand chief executive Richard Burke said the cold snap last week had slowed down growth for a few days, but warm weather was forecasted for the week and coming weekend.