An informal meeting was held by representatives of German asparagus producer unions (North, South and East) and the French asparagus producers union during the Interaspa 2023 trade fair in Sandhatten, Germany at the beginning of September. The discussions, initiated in Germany, focused on proposals to change European standards regulating the harvesting length of CAT I and II asparagus, extending the dimensions from 22 cm to 24 cm.
An economically beneficial standard
The proposed new standard would enable a higher volume of marketed product without changing the quantity of inputs (plastic, pesticides, fertilisers, water, etc.). This would provide economic benefits to asparagus producers, through greater yield per hectare for unchanged production costs (particularly in terms of labour). The measure would not impact product quality because modern cultivation techniques with high mounds and new varieties are already being developed. In addition, it would allow waste reduction in the field, an argument that should also appeal to Brussels. The proposed new standard would simply be added to previous ones, with no obligation on producers to follow it. Everyone would remain free to continue to sell 22 cm asparagus instead of 24 cm. This would provide plenty of time for adapting labels, while also allowing producers that prefer not to make the calibre change to highlight their traditions. For its part, the French industry seems divided on the subject, with delegates expressing fears (poorly substantiated) concerning the risk of fibrosity in the last two centimetres of the spear and lower taste quality.
The exchanges prompted a desire for a broader sharing of information between Germany and France, as well as with other producing countries in Europe. The coordination work could continue during ExpoSE in Karlsruhe in November, with an official meeting between Italian, Spanish and Greek authorities.