British Asparagus Growers' Association Growers' Day

by Tim Mudge

British Asparagus Growers' Association Growers' Day

The British Asparagus Growers' Association recently held a growers' day in West Norfolk. The event was timed to coincide with the finish of the main UK asparagus season. It was attended by over 40 delegates and allowed growers to get together and discuss the season as well as look at innovation within the crop.

The first part of the day was hosted by Hargreaves Plants at their international asparagus trials site. Growers were shown crown density trials of the leading asparagus hybrid Guelph Millennium as well as the UK site of the 4th International Asparagus Cultivar Trial. The first harvest took place in spring 2014 and so far, the Pacific series, bred in New Zealand, is looking extremely promising.

After the field tour, growers received presentations from three speakers.

Jamie Petchell, Commercial Director of Hargreaves Plants, gave an outline of his recent asparagus study tour to Ontario and Michigan. This visit was part funded by the Horticulture Development Company in order to gain knowledge that will further benefit the UK asparagus industry. He spoke about a range topics, including cultivar trials, planting densities, harvesting aids and consumption methods. A full write up of his study will be presented to UK asparagus growers in the coming weeks.

Andreas Lobke, responsible for asparagus production at Winklemann Spargel und Beerenbau, presented his company as well as an outline on the German asparagus industry. He oversees a total asparagus production of some 3000 acres, making him one of Germany's largest producers of the crop. There were many questions from the floor, particularly on the topic of how the white asparagus crop is marketed in Germany. Within the whole country, Mr. Lobke reported that 60% of asparagus is purchased directly from the farmer. Indeed, many farmers even have their own on-farm restaurants.

The final speaker was Jack Ward, CEO of British Growers. Mr. Ward explained the topic of Producer Organisations (POs) to the assembled delegates. The PO Scheme is governed under the EU Fruit and Vegetable regime; POs can access EU grant aid to carry out "Operational Programmes" with an annual grant ceiling calculated at 4.1% of the value of production marketed by the PO.

The meeting concluded with the Association Annual General Meeting, where Chris Chinn of Cobrey Farms was elected as the new Chairman.

The day was considered to be of great benefit to the growers that attended with everybody indicating that they went away having learned something new about the crop.