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New Zealand’s asparagus industry is facing a grave shortage of growers making it impossible to meet demand, according to the Timaru Herald.

The industry currently has only 56 commercial growers planting 500-600ha of the vegetable nationwide and faces the danger of failing to fulfil orders from buyers.

The growers’ elected body, the Asparagus Council, has mounted an attempt to save the industry by expanding production.

The council aims to add another 100ha in the South Island to fuel export growth, on land around Canterbury.

In the North Island the council wants to plant at least 150ha.

It is hoped the move will grow New Zealand’s export crop from 500 to 1000 tonnes.

In the 1970s asparagus was hailed as ‘green gold’.

“There was a lot of money to be made and prices were really good,” Asparagus Council chairman George Turney said.

A drop in price combined with oversupply saw a downturn in the industry that continued right through to the 1990s.

Prices crashed from $2.50/kg down to $1.80/kg and growers found it no longer viable with the cost of labour rising.

Growers pulled out across the country and many switched to viticulture in areas such as Hawke’s Bay and the top of the South Island.

This resulted in a fall in production and grower numbers.

Many were also reaching retirement age and exiting the industry.

The industry had smaller growers who were making a good income from supplying local farmers markets or selling on the roadside. – Source: Timaru Herald

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