4 May 2015

Watties cans asparagus plant

3:42 pm on 4 May 2015

Asparagus growers who have been supplying Heinz Watties will have to look elsewhere for customers from now on.

The vegetable processor has decided to can any further asparagus processing at its Hastings plant, saying it has not been getting a sufficient supply to keep it going.

It has been struggling with a shortfall for several seasons, as it competes for supply with the fresh and export markets which have grown significantly in the past 10 years, a spokesperson said.

It had been having to import canned asparagus as it had been able to get only a third of what it needed locally.

Watties would now get its asparagus from Peru, which it said was regarded as the world capital for the vegetable.

Hawke's Bay grower Lindsay Kay said up to 15 growers could be affected in the region but there would be others elsewhere in the country.

All were disappointed at the news but it came as no surprise.

"They mentioned that this was a possibility over a year ago and, myself, as a grower, I saw the writing on the wall so I started developing other markets," he said.

"But there's still a big portion of my crop that needs to find a home to go to, and I imagine every other grower in Hawke's Bay will be exactly the same."

There were other options for growers, including a Whakatu operation which was similar to Watties.

"But they have some apprehension because of what they will be competing with in the market place, and Watties product from overseas is heaps cheaper and they just don't want to be caught with their warehouse full of stuff they can't sell because of the price competition," Mr Kay said.

"I'm trying to establish dialogue with another firm that's looking at export and then of course there's just the local market but asparagus is getting into an over supply situation and that local market premium is quite possibly not going to be there this coming year."

More and more companies were using imported vegetables in frozen and canned products and he believed Heinz Watties would cut more New Zealand-grown produce in the future.