The asparagus harvest has begun on fields near Hostín u Vojkovic in the Mělnicko region of the Czech Republic. Asparagus is one of the first crops to mature in the year, marking the start of the Czech agricultural season.
Harvesters and hired workers have about 60 days to gather the crop. Workers visit the fields daily, uncover the row, pick the grown-up shoots, and then cover the row again with plastic. They repeat the process each day. The asparagus proliferates at about eight centimeters per day, and leaving it on the field for too long will burn the tips of the shoot.
According to Jiří Šafář, managing director of Český Chřest, the price of asparagus remains unchanged from last year to maintain quality. They have 48 hours to find customers, and if a retail chain unexpectedly refuses their crop, they have no choice but to plow it back into the soil.
Local farmers face challenging market conditions, and the export market has become unprofitable. They have decreased the cultivated area by 20 hectares to 185 hectares to reduce costs.
In addition to asparagus, the farm is growing horseradish. Petr Hanka, chairman of the Czech Vegetable Growers’ Union, appreciates the farm’s efforts to compete with imported horseradish. Horseradish was once grown in Czech fields but is now primarily grown in small gardens.
Despite the difficulties of growing horseradish, Šafář, and his colleague agree that it is worth it, and they sell it at their local stall for 110 CZK per kilogram. Šafář considers government intervention and various subsidies to be the bane of small farmers and believes that a free market is a solution.
The Czech Republic’s agricultural sector is undergoing significant changes. According to local vegetable growers, growing vegetables in the country is no longer profitable. This has led to a decline in the area of cultivated land. However, some farmers risk producing more expensive products, such as asparagus and horseradish, to offset the losses.
These farmers have to manage their risks and ensure they have buyers for their crops, which is no easy feat. Nonetheless, the asparagus harvest is a positive start to the year for the country’s agricultural sector, providing fresh produce for local consumers.