Forget queues at the petrol stations, this month the shortage we need to be worried about is asparagus, one of the UK’s quintessential summer vegetables. Evidently, after last month’s wettest April on record, supplies of the vegetable are scarce, and because of this, demand has increased as well as interest. In a globally famous auction, held in the village of Bretforton in the Vale of Evesham, Worcs on Sunday, rounds of asparagus reached the dizzy heights of £50 each. And hundreds of hungry people flocked to the village in the hope of snagging their own bunch of asparagus but unfortunately had to leave empty handed.
The auction, which is held every year, is an indication of the general prices that you can expect for this vegetable and organisers of the event were expecting a lot of interest, after the national shortage and the cancellation of the British Asparagus Festival. There were, however, many more visitors than anticipated and even telephone bids from as far away as America. The tourism officer for Wychavon District Council, Angela Tidmarsh said: “The auction went really well. Hundreds of people turned up and there were even phone bids being made from America. The first couple of rounds fetched £50 which is what was hoped. It was excellent. The event, the occasion, is so quintessentially English. Asparagus now has become a really wanted vegetable. It has a short English season. We did have problems sourcing asparagus before but with this weather now it is just great. It is really quality asparagus.”
Asparagus grown in the Vale of Evesham is considered to be the very best in the world so it may not have been totally unexpected that such high prices were raised. The auction in Bretforton, has been established since the 1970’s and the asparagus is donated to the event by local farmers. Amongst the people who bought the asparagus were local restaurant owners and of course, the local residents. The asparagus is sold by ’rounds’ according to weight; you can bid on one or two pound rounds. Miss Tidmarsh commented that, “The first couple of rounds went for £50 and then it tailed off to £30 and £25. A big round, known as grand round which has around 100 stems in it, was sold for £600 to a local resident.” And the auctioneer of the event said, “In a normal year, we expect to sell 30 rounds of asparagus at around £6 to £25 each. This year asparagus is difficult to get hold of so we anticipated sales to reach record levels of potentially £50 a round.” We will have to watch this space to see how the supermarkets are coping with the shortage and see what prices they are charging.