Asparagus in Portugal – An Opportunity Waiting to Happen
We have just returned from a short visit to central Portugal, where we were invited to participate in an Asparagus Conference. This was located in Felgueiras, about an hour’s drive from Porto. We presented a paper on green asparagus growing methods around the world and how they can be adapted for production in Portugal.
Despite our stay being a very short one, we were excellently hosted by Rui Pinto from the Cooperative at Felgueiras. Indeed, we were spoiled with some excellent food and of course, the local speciality, Vinho Verde – highly recommended!
Asparagus production does not have much of a history in Portugal and we were told that the majority of shoppers were not really aware of it. Further, it was difficult to get any reliable statistics on the crop. Reasonable estimates would suggest a planted area of less than 200 hectares currently, most of this having been established in the past 5 years. The number of growers with the crop is also thought be close to 200, giving an average growing area of circa. 1ha. All this would suggest a country that is struggling with the crop. However, there are great opportunities present.
There are a handful of professional producers in Portugal that are taking the crop very seriously. Their production areas are significantly larger than the average and they have a strong focus on improved production methods as well as marketing. Many of the small growers have established test plots of around 1ha and have plans for expansion now that they have proven the crop can grow in their location. We have witnessed both high level conventional, as well as organic production.
The majority of current asparagus crops have been planted with the export market in mind. This is understandable as the average Portuguese consumer is currently unaware of asparagus and what to do with it in the kitchen. However, as we have witnessed in many countries new to asparagus production, this actually represents a huge opportunity for the domestic producer. It is a case of education through a host of channels and while this process takes place, returns to the grower can be greater than from the export sector.
It will be very interesting to fast-forward 5 years and then look at the how the Portuguese asparagus sector has developed.
Stay tuned to Global Plant Genetics for the latest in asparagus news.