"“We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried.” "

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao 12th March 2009

""We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we'd like to do our best to preserve that system."

Timothy Geithner US Secretary of the Treasury, previously President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.1/3/2009

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Asparagus Wars - Germany 0 England 5

There is nothing makes Lord Patel salivate more than the prospect of fresh asparagus from the Vale of Evesham, steamed to a point of indefineable but sensuous scrunchiness lathered with a simple melted butter sauce. Ideally served, as is customary in this neck of the woods by provocatively clothed peasant girls individually on silver skewers with crisp freshly baked wholemeal soda bread.

Nothing compares with this springtime delight - certainly not the Peruvian, waxy thin sprue that Tesco try to smuggle in during the winter - waves of Eastern Europeans of course ensure that the prices are kept stunningly low.... but not for the Germans.

These curious people ... like the Austrians blanch their asparagus in tunnels and even celebrate with festivals the creamy white phallic boiled mushy stems. In Germany, white asparagus, or weisser spargel, signifies the beginning of spring. From about mid-April to June, rural festivals emerge to honor the vegetable and restaurants even come out with special asparagus menus. It is served not only as a side dish but also as a main entrée, especially during the spring. ... but this year prices are sky high and shortges abound ... in the shops and market stalls but not in the fields.

Why ?

The stout Poles are over here populating our Worcester fields but ... if the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, is to be beleived there's a severe shortage of POlish seasonal laborers and up to 15 percent of the asparagus harvest will be left to rot in the fields. In 2005, there were almost 220,000 foreign harvest helpers in Germany. This year there are just 178,000.

Donner und Blitzen ... this may also carry on all summer leaving unpicked soft fruit, apples, even in the vineyards on the Rhine!

The President of Lower Saxony asparagus farmers, Dietrich Paul laments to Bild am Sonntag ...""We are missing up to a third of our seasonal laborers,"

The problem, is a 2006 employment law which sought to limit the use of seasonal workers from abroad and to increase the number of unemployed Germans working in German fields. Ho.Ho.Ho.

In earlier years 90% of agricultural workers bringing home the harvest would be from Poland, Romania, Slovakia and other eastern European countries - new regulation demand this should be cut to 80 %.

This unwillingness to admit more waves of gastarbeiten from the East has meant they aim for the UK , Holland and Spain where labour markets are free and open - Germany has just extended its restrictions until 2009 and seasonal laborers can only stay in Germany for 4 months each year.

Germany has an unemployment rate of 9.1% but the highly educated work force don't want to grub around picking asparagus and cauliflowers.

XIth Asparagus Symposium 2005 - more than you ever wanted to know about growing Asparagus with lots of pictures of people looking at asparagus.

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