There’s always slightly less asparagus demand in the week after Easter, but it’s picking up again”
In Belgium, the asparagus high season officially began last week when the first asparagus was harvested in asparagus grower Leon Henckens’s fields. “Asparagus had been on the market for a while, of course, and the Easter demand was excellent,” says Benny Cuypers of BelOrta. “That always drops slightly in the week after Easter, but with this official opening, it should pick up again.”
Benny is well pleased with the asparagus’ quality. “It’s top-notch, thanks to the perfect weather. There was sometimes a tight supply in recent weeks, but the current volumes are bringing the market back into proportion. That tight supply brought high prices, but those have now fallen considerably,” he says.
Leo’s volumes are also falling more in line with the demand for his asparagus. “As soon as people see photos of our asparagus on, for example, social media, we’re immediately inundated with questions about our ‘white gold’. We had to deny that demand at first, but now we have enough supply to meet it,” he explains.
Leo says his asparagus’ quality is now becoming very good. “The cold weather in late March and early April caused many loose spears. Those are now being used in soup packets. Now, however, the quality is clearly starting to improve.”
He sends half of his asparagus to auction and sells the other half in his store. “We recently introduced card payments, so people are quick to buy now.” Leo has 9.5 hectares of asparagus and runs the business with his wife Carine Henckes-Snijkers. They also sell locally-grown yacón. “Not many people are familiar with this crisp, sweet tuber, even though it’s delicious, and we’ve been promoting it a lot.”
For now, Leo is not yet sold on robotization. “Ultimately, with the labor shortage, it would, obviously, be a great solution. I’ve been looking into it regularly and am certainly keeping an eye on any developments. At the moment, though, the robots don’t cut reliably enough yet, and I simply cannot take that risk,” he concludes.