Asparagus markets strong through MayLower volumes from California and a slow start to the Michigan deal should keep asparagus markets strong through May, grower-shippers and officials say.

Through the end of April, it had been a “typical asparagus season” for Yakima, Wash.-based Rasmussen Marketing Inc., said Sharon Heer, general manager — excellent growing weather followed by cool, windy weather and threats of frost.

What hasn’t been up and down is prices, Heer said.

“It’s a very aggressive market,” she said. “California has dropped off rather quick, and left a big gap. We have good quality and good sizes — there just isn’t enough.”

In addition, Michigan has been slow to start and Peru hasn’t been a factor in the deal this spring, Heer said.

“We expect a very good month of May,” she said.

On April 30, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $56.75-60.75 for 28-pound cartons and crates of bunched large asparagus from Washington, up from $44-46.75 last year at the same time.

Michigan won’t likely see any major production until the third week of May, two to two-and-a-half weeks behind schedule, said John Bakker, executive director of the DeWitt-based Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board.

The good thing about being later, Bakker said, is that growers shouldn’t have to worry about frost. And abundant moisture should lead to excellent quality and sizing.

Markets shouldn’t be too shabby, either, he said.

“From a price standpoint, it should be favorable. We’re looking forward to getting started.”

Prices were topping $60 per box on some sizes at the end of April, said James Paul, asparagus and avocado salesman for The Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles.

“The current situation is pretty dire,” he said. “We’re in an extreme demand-exceeds situation. A lot of people are not getting covered with what they need.”

Lower production in California at the end of the deal has been the result more of labor shortages than weather, Paul said. An early start to the California cherry season has lured many workers away from asparagus fields, he said.

Peru will likely start to ramp up shipments to take advantage of the strong U.S. markets, Heer said.

But Paul said it won’t be until Central Mexico begins shipping, likely in the first week of June, that the market will see a significant boost in supplies.