The French asparagus sector is increasingly dynamic
Asparagus in France has enjoyed favourable technical and commercial dynamics over the past ten years. However, as the Covid crisis hit the last campaign rather hard, the French retail sector has rallied in support to promote asparagus consumption.
Some consumers are discovering this vegetable for the first time, as revealed by Kantar panel figures. The number of French households buying asparagus increased by 11 percentage points in 2020, rising to 31% from a previously stable 20% since 2017. The challenge now is to maintain this momentum in 2021, an apparently achievable goal judging from the performance in the current campaign. French production is developing dynamically in different areas. In 2021, Planasa joined the National Association of Asparagus of France and entrusted the marketing of 700 tons of asparagus produced on 170 hectares to its new commercial partner Priméale. There has also been an increase in the production of green asparagus, particularly in the south of France and under cover. The National Association of Asparagus of France comprises seven member groups spread over the south-western basins (Copadax, Maisadour, Tutiac and Planasa Vignerons), the Loire Valley (Fleuron D’Anjou) and the south-east (Cofruid’oc and Arterris). Sales during the 2021 season are expected to exceed 6,000 tons of asparagus, with white and purple varieties dominating. The association accounts for around 30% of the estimated 20,000 tons of production in France, and its share is growing. It is estimated that the French consume about 28,000 tons of asparagus each year, which leaves room for imports, especially Spanish green asparagus which is sold at very competitive prices in relation to French production costs.
Forthcoming ban on plastic packaging
However, French asparagus holds a significant commercial advantage in the form of its French origin designation and its local distribution. Analyses of the market highlight the prominence of French product on supermarket shelves thanks to the numerous communication campaigns carried out by Asparagus de France in the media (radio, TV), at points of sale and on social networks. In France, asparagus is sold in a variety of packaging, in 4kg and 1 kg packages, in 0.5kg bunches and in 0.5kg flow-pack plastic bags. However, as of January 1, 2022, the AGEC Act (a law to tackle waste in the circular economy) will prohibit the use of plastic packaging for sales units of less than 1.5kg. Asparagus will be affected, but a waiver request has been made to extend the deadline to 2025. The asparagus industry is currently looking for solutions.