Asparagus runs small as Peru takes over

07/24/2012 04:03:00 PM
Andy Nelson

Asparagus importers expect an orderly transition from Mexico to Peru, though some are worried about too much small asparagus in the market.

Shipments from Central Mexico should wind down in September, said Paul Auerbach, president of Maurice A. Auerbach Inc., Secaucus N.J.

Peru will carry the load for Auerbach’s asparagus deal until about Jan. 1, when product from Baja California begins arriving, Auerbach said.

Auerbach expects a smooth transition as Mexico volumes decline and Peruvian volumes ramp up in August and September.

“The market’s pretty steady and I think prices will stay steady,” he said July 24. “It’s been a very orderly market. The last few years it’s been steadier, with fewer peaks and valleys.”

Peruvian supplies will remain light until Mexico exits the deal, likely in mid-August, said Jeff Friedman, president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Carb Americas Inc.

“A lot of importers are taking it easy because Mexico is still in the marketplace,” Friedman said. “When they’re done, we’ll start asking Peru to fill the void.”

Prices should begin to come down in September, when Peru begins shipping peak volumes, Friedman said.

“We should have a decent market through mid- to late September, and a semi-OK market in September.”

At the beginning of the year, Walter Yager, chief executive officer of Alpine Fresh Inc., Miami, thought Peruvian volumes would be down about 4% this year compared to 2011. Now, he said they will likely be down more than 5%.

“Year-to-date, the industry is well behind where it was last year,” he said.

The main growing areas of Peru will begin harvesting in mid-August, but volume shipments won’t likely begin until late August, Yager said. As of July 24, growing weather in Peru was good, with none of the El Nino-related weather that many had predicted.

Markets should strengthen in August when Mexico winds down, about a week earlier than usual, Yager said.

“Prices are kind of steady now in the high teens, and we expect them to trend slightly up as Mexico declines.”

On July 24, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $22-23 for 11-pound cartons of bunched jumbo asparagus from Peru, up from $21-22 last year at the same time. Small asparagus was $12-13 per carton, comparable to last year.

Demand for jumbos was stronger than for smaller asparagus in late July, Auerbach said.

“There’s a lot of small asparagus around,” he said. “(The price of) small is considerably below standard and large. That’s been the only obstacle.”


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