Short supplies keep asparagus prices higher

08/24/2011 07:47:00 AM
Chris Koger

An end to the Central Mexico asparagus deal, and a delayed start to volume shipments from Peru, should strengthen markets well into September.

A cold snap in Peru in August set the deal back, and markets have taken notice, said Rick Durkin, director of business development for Miami-based Crystal Valley Foods.

“We’re looking at little spike right now in prices, and they’re likely to hold” until Peru catches up, likely in the second half of September, Durkin said Aug. 23. “By the last week of August, things are generally starting to pop, but it could be two or three weeks late this year.”

By the week of Aug. 22, asparagus shipments from central Mexico were “dwindling rapidly,” said Jeff Friedman, president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Carb Americas Inc.

Baja California shipments will likely start in early to mid-September, Friedman said.

With central Mexico ending and the Baja California deal yet to begin, Peru will be the primary supplier through mid- to late August, said James Paul, salesman for Greg Paul Produce, Stockton, Calif., and Altar Produce LLC, Calexico, Calif.

On Aug. 23, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $23.75-24.75 for 11-pound cartons of large asparagus from Mexico, down from $28.75-30.75 last week a the same time.

Prices will likely stay in the low to mid-20s per box until volumes return to normal, Durkin said.

Friedman predicted prices in the high teens or low 20s in early September, dropping to the $17-19 range when product from Baja begins shipping.

Also, increased processsing demand, due to growing problems in China, could limit fresh-market shipments from Peru, Durkin said.

Promotions will likely be limited until mid- to late September, when Baja enters the deal, Paul said.

The Baja region of Constitution, where Altar sources its asparagus, has enjoyed perfect, mild weather this growing season, Paul said.

“It’s exactly what aparagus likes,” he said. “It’s setting up for a super high-quality crop.”

Paul expected a marketable mix of large and standard sizes out of Baja this year.

While shipments have been delayed, quality and size profile out of Peru are good, Durkin said.



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