How the level of water has affected the plants so far is unknown, but the most important aspect at the moment is the quality of the spring rains.
“How the drought will affect the yield at this stage nobody knows, and we are concerned by that,” Sean Limbrey of grower-exporter Momack told Fruitnet.com.
Assuming the rain lasts, exports are expected to be similar to last year’s 2,500 tonnes, according to Robin Johnson of exporter Purveyors International. Purveyors will handle 350-400 tonnes of that figure.
Cutting for exports will begin next month in Koo Wee Rup in Victoria, where 90 per cent of the country’s asparagus is grown.
The vast majority of exports are bound for Japan, and the economic uncertainty there has also been a worry for exporters.
“There are a few unknowns about Japan in regard to their recession, but there have been some good signs, like the positive economic growth announced recently,” explained Mr Limbrey.
“Initial demand indications are looking good, however. How that relates to prices is hard to say. We’re very sensitive to exchange rates, but if they stay at the current levels we’ll be ok. If the Australian dollar goes up much more we might be in trouble.”
Mr Johnson agreed, and said more producers were concentrating on the local market because of the exchange rate and uncertain economies in export markets.
An undeniable positive for the industry, however, has been the performance of the domestic market, which has been growing at an annual rate of around 10 per cent.
“About five years ago export was 60 per cent of our business, but now it’s half and half with the domestic market,” said Mr Limbrey.
“We need both to be functioning well, but the growth in domestic demand has taken pressure off our exports to Japan. We don’t have the reliance on the spring Japanese market we once had, and that’s a good thing.”