Peruvian asparagus shippers expect a repeat year with big volume

07/15/2011 03:02:00 PM
Chuck Robinson

Déjà vu appears to be the theme with the upcoming peak season for Peruvian asparagus this year.

Peak volumes should pick up at a normal pace late in the summer, importers say.

“We’re expecting an exceptional, steady crop for the upcoming months and throughout the season,” said Priscilla Lleras, coordinator of the Peruvian Asparagus Importers Association, Miami.

The group reports that Peru is the No. 1 exporter of asparagus to the U.S. market, having shipped 192.8 million pounds to the U.S. a year ago. That was up from 190.7 million pounds in 2009.

The association says Peruvian product accounted for 51% of asparagus sold in the U.S. last year.

“We feel that Peru brings a lot to the table,” said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development for Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Southern Specialties. “We grow a quality-assured product from Peru with the strongest part of our season being those months that there is very little or no domestic production.

“Peruvian product helps fill gaps and enables restaurants and homemakers to have healthful asparagus during those times when domestic production is unavailable.”

Julia Inestroza, marketing manager for Los Angeles-based Gourmet Trading Co., said she anticipates a smoother market this year than last.

Jeff Friedman, president of Pompano Beach-based Carb Americas Inc., said he looks for a repeat of last year’s good performance out of Peru.

Cruz Carrera, asparagus category manager for Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce, said he expects to have promotable volumes out of Peru beginning in August or September.

“It should start at about the normal time. They have had good growing conditions there, and quality should be good,” Carrera said.

“Starting this year, right now, I think we’re going to see much of the same type of year as last year,” he said. “Currently, our market’s about $17-17.50 for an 11-pound (carton of) standard large, with signs of strengthening.”

Nilda Soler, air logistics supervisor for Customized Brokers Inc., a branch of Crowley Maritime Corp. in Miami, also said the upcoming deal likely will parallel last year’s.

“Right now, it’s very similar numbers and projections,” she said.

David Robles, import manager based in Delray Beach, Fla., for Bakersfield, Calif.-based Harold Crawford Co. Inc., noted a couple of wild price swings last year.

“You’re looking at $16-17, but last year was a lot higher,” he said. “It was in the $40 range around Christmas, Valentine’s Day, the holidays. Normally, you’re averaging at $15 during the whole season. This year, it’s been very low. It’s been $10 or $12 the last six months.


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