Whether in Rhineland-Palatinate, Brandenburg or Saxony: throughout Germany, asparagus farmers are complaining about sales problems and reluctance to buy. The asparagus – once the favorite seasonal vegetable of the Germans – stays on the shelves and at the stalls.

The disappointment in the companies is correspondingly great. “The harvest quantities and the quality are good,” said the managing director of the Association of East German Asparagus Farmers, Frank Saalfeld, the German Press Agency. However, retailers are buying fewer goods and are instead offering customers cheaper asparagus from abroad – for example from Greece and Morocco.

This development can be observed almost nationwide and also affects the companies in Saxony. “That’s why they took areas out of the harvest and had to send harvest workers home.”

The season is actually at its peak. Engraving will continue until June 24th, albeit to a lesser extent in many places.

According to Saalfeld’s observations, many consumers try to save energy elsewhere in the face of price increases. That hits the local asparagus. The prices were at the previous year’s level, sometimes below. The trend can also be felt at the sales stands. “Customers come to the stand, see what it costs and then leave.”

A number of companies have already dismantled their stands because they were no longer profitable. “Sales to end customers are going badly,” stated the expert. It looks better for companies with their own gastronomy.

But even the business on the “asparagus farms” is no longer a sure-fire success, farmers from Brandenburg point out.

Asparagus farmers in the region confirm the assessments of the association. “The harvest is fine, but people save,” said Mathias Schertenleib from the asparagus farm Schertenleib in Ostrava (district of Central Saxony). His farm grows asparagus on five and a half hectares and markets the vegetables directly. Because of the lower sales, he reduced production to about 75 percent. However, he does not want to complain, emphasized Schertenleib. There is a solid customer base who are loyal to the company.

Entrepreneurs in Rhineland-Palatinate are also frustrated with the reluctance to buy. “There are several reasons for this – on the one hand, a large supply is currently meeting subdued demand,” said association spokesman Andreas Köhr from the farmers’ and winegrowers’ association Rhineland-Palatinate South of the German Press Agency.

He also complains about the unusually strong competition from imported goods. “Asparagus from Spain or Greece, for example, is cheaper because the production costs are significantly lower there. The main reason is the much lower minimum wage,” said Köhr.

It is already becoming apparent that this development will have consequences. The first farmers are beginning to reduce their acreage. In Saxony, for example, asparagus cultivation has shrunk continuously in recent years – a trend that, according to the association’s managing director, Saalfeld, is likely to continue. While vegetables were still being grown on 324 hectares in this country in 2015, last year it was just under 188 hectares, according to figures from the State Statistical Office.

Also in the Beelitz region, which in Brandenburg stands for the classic asparagus cultivation and sale, reductions are already being made. The chairman of the Beelitz asparagus association, Jürgen Jakobs, is quoted as saying on the RBB broadcaster: He has already harvested up to 20 percent of his acreage this year. “The weather conditions are currently ideal – but it makes more sense for the farmers to let the asparagus grow through on individual fields,” said Jakobs. This prevents even more costs for harvesting and processing.

And his colleague Eckhard Kuhl from Sallgast (Elbe-Elster) has already set aside 25 of his otherwise 60 hectares of cultivated land. That also costs jobs: Normally he employs 100 people during the asparagus season, currently there are only 60. “People are unsettled. Everyone prefers to keep the money in their pockets now,” he told broadcaster RBB. Kuhl also blames politics, as quoted by the “Berliner Kurier”. They design “a horror scenario that we have to prepare for difficult times and that’s what people do”.

This also affects the restaurants, which would otherwise take a significant proportion of the asparagus harvest. Business there got off to a good start, but is now declining again – many restaurateurs simply had to reduce their opening hours due to a lack of staff, and on the other hand, the money is no longer easy for the customers.