California asparagus growers ponder drought’s effectsMany California asparagus grower-shippers have concerns about water, but volumes could still be close to normal in 2014.

Drought-related water restrictions could affect grower-shippers in 2015, but it shouldn’t be a major issue this year, said Marc Marchini, a partner in Stockton, Calif.-based A.M. Farms and the president of the California Asparagus Commission.

Two “reasonable” rains and cooler weather recently came as welcome news to growers, and more rain was forecast in the first half of February, Marchini said Feb. 4.

In the Delta region, Los Angeles- based The Giumarra Cos. expects to have ample water, but growers in California’s Central Valley could see reductions, said James Paul, asparagus and avocado salesman.

“They haven’t gotten a lot of water, and there’s not a forecast for a lot of water,” Paul said. “There are certainly drought issues they’re dealing with this year.”

California growers should begin shipping by the week of Feb. 17 or the week of Feb. 24, Paul said.

A.M. Farms expected to begin harvesting about March 1. Growers in southern California could start a bit earlier, Marchini said.

A.M. and other California growers were hoping to hold back crops a bit, thanks to rising Mexican volumes and falling prices, Marchini said.

“We should see a lot of Mexican volume through February and March,” Paul said. “The quality’s good, and pricing is at a level for a lot of good promotions.”

A cold snap in the Caborca region of Mexico delayed production there, said Kristen Francisco, vice president of sales and marketing for Los Angeles-based Gourmet Trading Co., but she expected production to be back to normal by the end of the week of Feb. 3.

On Feb. 4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $12.75-13.75 for 11-pound cartons of bunched large and standard asparagus from Mexico, down from $26.75 last year at about the same time.

Paul expected prices to remain fairly steady as California product begins coming into the market. Peruvian asparagus volumes were in steady decline in early February, he said.

Marchini expected ample volumes of California product for Easter and Mother’s Day promotions this year.