Mexico’s year-round shipments totaled 16.16 million boxes a year ago, and Peru shipped 17.30 million boxes. Canada and Ecuador followed, at 336,364 and 27,273, respectively.
The total asparagus volume in the U.S. in 2013 was 38.39 million boxes, USDA reported.
“There are unprecedented numbers, without any interruption in supply the last couple of months,” said Pat Ramirez, West Coast sales manager with Pompano Beach, Fla.-based CarbAmericas Inc.
The flow of product, combined with the weather-hindered logistics, created a depressed market in the late winter, Ramirez said.
That prices have plunged hasn’t come as a surprise, Ramirez said.
“I’ve seen it this way before,” he said.
What he hasn’t seen is the longevity of the sagging market, he said.
“It’s record low, as far as how long the prices have been that way,” he said.
But, Ramirez added, there were signs that the market is headed upward.
For marketers, Easter is a generally considered a major event for asparagus sales. In 2014, the holiday will come later than usual, April 20.
The holiday will come too late to help Michigan, which is looking at a normal May start to its two-month deal, but it Michigan growers will benefit indirectly, said John Bakker, executive director of the DeWitt-based Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board.
“Third and fourth week in May is usually kind of our peak weeks, and because we don’t have a lot of pressure from outside, we’re enjoying pretty good prices during that period,” Bakker said.
About half of Michigan’s crop goes to the processing market, Bakker said.
As for the market, Bakker said he anticipates prices to be closer to normal than they have been over the winter months.
“With less asparagus on the market, I’m expecting pricing to be close to where it was last year,” he said.
Yakima, Wash.-based Rasmussen Marketing Inc. likely will have product to market around Washington State, but the company is aiming primarily at Mother’s Day promotions, said Sharon Heer, general manager.
“We’re not in any hurry to get into it, with Mexico still in,” Heer said.
She said she expects volumes and prices to be about at normal levels by the time her deal starts to peak in May.
“Our volume should be where they’ve been the last couple of years,” she said.
The late Easter is timed well for Rasmussen this year, Heer said.
“The good news, as far as the holiday is set up, we’ll come off the Easter ad and go back into a strong period for Mothers Day,” she said. “Last year, Easter was early, so for six weeks, you didn’t have a really active ad period.”