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Temporary Asparagus Shortage In South Africa Expected To Be Resolved With New Namibia Project

By: Staff Writer

Any shortage of asparagus in the South African market is only be temporary as a new Namibian project will soon supply the neighbouring market.

It was reported on the Johannesburg municipal market’s website that an extremely low number of asparagus was sold on 8 June 2023 (200g punnets) at N$140 per kilogramme.

The traditional asparagus import season runs from the beginning of March until the end of August.  Imports are mainly from Mexico and Peru. This year lower volumes have been imported and the weakening of the Rand-Dollar exchange rate makes it an expensive product to procure.

Grahame Osler, a manager at the asparagus company Denbi, which supplies large retailers, explains that they imported less asparagus from source markets outside of Africa this year compared to previous years.

“We were hoping that a new asparagus project in Namibia would kick in sooner, but it did not. Any shortage of asparagus will just be temporary as supplies from the new Namibia project have started in mid-May. We are currently supplying about 85% of retail demand,” Osler says.

He estimates that fresh asparagus from the new Namibia project will land in SA almost 35% cheaper than the usual air freight imports from Mexico and Peru.

Osler estimates that the fresh asparagus from the new Namibia project will be approximately 35% cheaper than the usual air freight imports from Mexico and Peru. This cost advantage will not only benefit the asparagus industry but also have a positive impact on consumers, making the vegetable more affordable and accessible.

Wolfe Braude, fruit manager at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz), says asparagus farming is quite small in SA, and it is mostly imported now.

“It is labour intensive and takes around three years to be ready to harvest. Quality control is key as it is seen as a discerning market. So, high quality cultivars are needed. This all means high investment and running costs,” Braude explains.

In 2022, South Africa imported approximately $607,000 (N$11 million) worth of asparagus while exporting about $215,000 (N$4 million) worth of the vegetable. This highlights the country’s reliance on imports to meet the demand of the local market, emphasizing the significance of projects like the one in Namibia to bridge the supply gap.

Some varieties of asparagus are not even grown in SA anymore.


Staff Writer

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