Glut of Mexican asparagus depresses the market - The Packer

Glut of Mexican asparagus depresses the market

02/27/2014 06:00:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

California asparagus harvestCourtesy California Asparagus CommissionA warm spring has pushed California asparagus fields ahead of schedule. Historically most growers in California don't begin harvesting until mid-March.Although disking isn’t the most desirable, Barbara Cecchini, who farms west of Stockton, Calif., said she doesn’t want to start off the season in the red.

She planned to disk part of her fields and had hoped to secure a processing contract for the remaining production.

“I don’t care if I make money — what I don’t want to do is lose money,” Cecchini said. She pointed to the 2013 season, which started out with strong prices that soon dipped.

“I can’t afford to lose money again — I won’t start if it’s a losing thing,” she said.

Cherie Watte Angulo, executive director of the El Centro-based California Asparagus Commission, said Cecchini was smart to not pick with prices so low.

“This year it’s just horrible — a lot of growers are being forced to postpone the start of the harvest,” she said. “If the price doesn’t rebound, they will just keep disking.

“They can’t run red ink at the beginning of the season and expect to make it up during the season. Every year we’re playing catch-up, and it’s not an enviable situation.”

The increasing competition from Mexican production is the main reason why California’s acreage and production has decreased, Angulo said. Heading into this season, she predicted the state’s growers would harvest about 34 million pounds — about what they have the past three years.

That compares to the peak of 94 million pounds in 2000 before the North American Free Trade Agreement eliminated all tariffs on imported asparagus.

“Long-term, we can’t continue to have this problem,” Angulo said. “Our growers aren’t going to continue to have asparagus in the fields. It’s not an economically sustainable crop if we have to play this game every single year.”

Asparagus is considered a permanent crop, with crowns buried in the soil pushing forth spears during the spring. Disking lops off one crop of spears, but it’s not as gentle on the crowns as having workers selectively cut them, Cecchini said.

Her costs, without any extra packing requirements, are about $25 per 28-pound box, she said. Subtracting out shipping and marketing expenses, Cecchini said she receives about $16 per box.

She said she needs that much to just break even because her labor costs are so much higher than counterparts in Mexico.

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usa  |  February, 28, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Glut of Mexican ......depresses the market. You can fill in just about anything. Asparagus...tomatoes....take your pick.

Sidney Robinson    
Redland, Fl 33031  |  February, 28, 2014 at 01:43 PM

We would love to get some of those California grown asparagus here in South Fla mkts. (Please don't disk your fields) Would love to trade with hundreds of bushels of Fla grown (large) avocados in July & August.......

Leaf Grower    
Central Coast  |  March, 01, 2014 at 09:27 AM

That's right Eric. Mexican imports depress everything, tariffs are the answer to the importing of cheap produce in the U.S. I know a Mexican grower is looking at this and getting mad but hey, I know business is business but there is a balance between business and patriotism here in the U.S. not a free for all like how it is in other counties.

SJ Valley  |  March, 01, 2014 at 11:47 AM

And my local super?market is pricing it @ @$1.99/lb !!!!! If they would tag it at $.79-$.99, much would be bought, consumed and put in home freezers - the glut would be over - all would benefit.

Pasco  |  March, 01, 2014 at 02:27 PM

Someone is going to take it in the shorts at that price. Feb. 24th price of 11# Lg. was 1.06/lb at the border. There is tough chance that USA cost are going to compete with that

usa  |  March, 03, 2014 at 03:03 PM

Don't expect retailers to help, it makes way too much sense. When there's blood in the water the retailers start to circle, and gain higher profits with lower commodity costs. Retailers do not care about ending gluts?

CA  |  March, 03, 2014 at 06:35 PM

NAFTA was supposed to even the playing field. How is it even when my labor cost is $12.50/hour & Mexican growers pay $7.00 per day?

March, 04, 2014 at 01:50 PM


Mexican Grower    
Caborca, Mexico  |  March, 05, 2014 at 08:20 PM

That is how free markets work. They make the economy more efficient. And although it may sometimes mean that some businesses are going to be strongly affected, at the end, it has a positive impact in the overall U.S economy.

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