Despite a promising start, the 2014 British asparagus season has not delivered the bumper crop expected earlier in the year, meaning retailers have had to supplement British crops with imports.
Although up on 2012 and 2013 levels - when bad weather led to unusually small harvests - the 2014 British crop was “relatively modest due to the variable weather,” said the Asparagus Growers’ Association.
“This season has been an improvement on the last couple of years, which were really bad, but it wasn’t the bumper year we expected,” said Sophie Bambride, account manager at grower Barfoots. “The colder weather dented the good start.”
Lower British volumes have led to retailers supplementing supplies with imports from South America - and having to fend off criticism from shoppers for stocking foreign crops at the height of the British season.
Following questions from consumers on its Facebook page, Waitrose said it had supplemented British asparagus with Peruvian imports to safeguard the longer-term health of the British crop. “We had a fantastic start to the season with our first British asparagus on the shelves on 1 April and excellent volumes,” said a spokesman. “However, due to the colder, inconsistent weather that followed the May Bank Holiday weekend, we have needed to protect the asparagus crowns.”
Tesco said it had had its best year ever in terms of volume sales of asparagus, with demand up 20% year on year, boosted by an “industry-leading” retail price point of £1.50. “Tesco stocked 100% British asparagus throughout the season,” said a spokeswoman.
“But now as it comes to an end, to meet customer demand, we like other retailers have had to supplement with imported asparagus.”
The British season is due to end on 21 June.