British asparagus could join Melton Mowbray pork pies and Champagne in getting special protection from the EU.
Westgrowers and three other asparagus growers from the West Midlands have applied for protected geographical indication status to be awarded to asparagus from the Vale of Evesham, in recognition of the area’s long-standing asparagus-growing tradition and its high-quality, sandy soil.
A PGI would help Vale of Evesham growers carve out an identity, said Westgrowers MD Matt Foster. “If a customer is looking to buy a regional product, we want them to be able to identify it,” he said. It might also encourage landowners in the area to go into asparagus production, and enable smaller growers to engage more with consumers, he added.
Asparagus from Evesham had a longstanding reputation as a quality, seasonal product, said Irene Bocchetta, EU protected food names manager at ADAS UK, which handles applications for Defra. “It’s worth protecting the production of this seasonal, regional product.”
The application defines the Vale of Evesham as within the boundaries of Wychavon, Malvern Hills and Stratford-upon-Avon district councils. The asparagus grown in the area has a retail value of about £12m and is grown over 1.5 thousand acres.
Most asparagus is harvested during an eight-week period between the end of April and June, but the application will seek protection for veg grown between March and July, to allow for variation caused by the weather.
The EU has previously granted protection to asparagus grown in Italy and Germany. PGIs are given to foods with a close link to a defined geographical area, where at least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation takes place.