26 May 2011

Asparagus demand strong, but more growers needed

7:53 am on 26 May 2011

The Asparagus Council says it wants to reverse the industry's decline over the past decade, by attracting more growers and investment.

The council says the number of growers has halved to 94 and the area planted in asparagus has fallen to 580 hectares over the past 10 years.

Chairman George Turney says an aging grower population, competing land uses, and the intensive nature of harvesting the crop have contributed to the industry's decline.

But he says the returns per hectare are very good, and there is demand from the processing industry, which needs 400 - 500 tonnes a year. Mr Turney says the export market in Japan is good and other Asian markets are getting bigger.

He says New Zealand is growing the crop through the northern hemisphere winter, where there's a demand for asparagus in the Christmas season.

Growers will discuss the future direction of the crop at a conference starting on Thursday Mangaweka, in the central North Island.

Mr Turney says the asparagus industry's commodity levy is also up for renewal. Growers will be asked to support the levy of $100 per hectare of asparagus for a further six years for research and development.