We plan to develop our production of green asparagus in photovoltaic greenhouses (FreshPlaza)

Frédéric Faillières, Planasa – Darbonne nursery:

“We plan to develop our production of green asparagus in photovoltaic greenhouses”

The Planasa – Darbonne nursery finished its white asparagus campaign two weeks ago, and this 2023 season has been very positive for the company. “In total, we have harvested 750 tons of asparagus on 112 hectares. We have reduced our surfaces but produced as much as last year. We can say that this white asparagus production campaign was better than average in terms of dynamics, with a 4-week plateau around Easter, from week 13 to week 16. We then had a gradual decline in production, with very good quality asparagus and very nice sizes right up to the end of the campaign.

In terms of sales, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the asparagus sold well throughout the season. We were pleased with the market dynamics, with the cool temperatures in May, which helped boost consumption and limited the presence and competition from summer products. As a result, prices remained decent as well until the end of the campaign,” explains Frédéric Faillières, EMEA Head of Northern European Business at the company.

Last year’s campaign was completely different, starting well in terms of sales and price dynamics, only to be hit by a drop in consumption in May, due to scorching temperatures that had damaged the product and impacted on quality. Last year’s asparagus also faced stiffer competition from summer fruit, which arrived earlier on the market. This year, the weather was favorable for asparagus growers in southwestern France.

Photo credit: AOP Asperges de France

Campaign of French green asparagus hit hard by the presence of imported products
The marketing season of French white asparagus was particularly good this year, but the French green asparagus campaign has been strongly affected by the presence of imported products. “The green asparagus market was characterized by the presence of foreign products, especially from Spain. France remains the preferred origin for supermarkets at the peak of the season, but the competition was very tough in terms of prices. We even sold below last year’s levels. As for the production, volumes were also lower this year (-20%) due to the lack of sunshine. Our product still sold rather well but at a lower price. Other producers, unfortunately, had to deal with problems early in the season and had to stop their campaigns very quickly. Quality was consistent throughout the season.”

Photo credit: AOP Asperges de France

4.5 ha surface increase for green asparagus planned for 2024
The Planasa – Darbonne nursery is trying to stabilize its white asparagus production over the coming years, so the company wants to expand its production of green asparagus in photovoltaic greenhouses. This production model offers many advantages.

“This year, we planted 7 ha of green asparagus, and we plan to plant 4.5 ha more next year. Although we lose 50% of our production by growing in photovoltaic greenhouses, the model has many advantages. Harvesting is much easier and less costly. The asparagus are very straight because they are not exposed to wind, and they also have a melting texture since they are not affected by mechanical stress. The asparagus are long, with a closed tip, because the presence of solar panels reduces the amount of light. The quality of our asparagus is far better than average, enabling us to market 100% of our harvest without any production gap.” Production reaches around 4.5 tons/ha and can be increased thanks to new-generation greenhouses.

Photo credit: AOP Asperges de France

Sales of asparagus crowns are down 40% this year
In addition to asparagus production, Planasa – Darbonne also produces asparagus crowns, which are marketed throughout France and especially in the southeast. This season was more than satisfactory in terms of production, but it was quite a poor year for plant producers.

“This year, we saw a 40% drop in volumes sold compared to last year. This trend was to be expected because, after a poor season, asparagus growers are less inclined to renew their plantations. Planting projects are usually postponed. Generally speaking, if a campaign is not satisfactory for asparagus growers, the following year will not be satisfactory for seedling growers either. However, we expect asparagus sales volumes to return to normal next year.”

Photo credit: AOP Asperges de France

Darius, a promising late green asparagus variety
Among the 9 varieties of asparagus (green and white) that the company markets, Frédéric Faillières is particularly satisfied with the Darius variety.

“This year again, the Darius, a late green asparagus variety, has produced very good results for the growers who had planted it. The variety is intended for asparagus growers who want to extend their asparagus production period. This year, we are starting to see significant surfaces and really interesting results, in line with our expectations and those of our customers.”

For more information:
Frédéric Faillières
Tel.: 05 57 71 56 00