After a late start, Mexican asparagus volumes were ramping up quickly in February, sending markets lower.

Miami-based Crystal Valley Foods imports asparagus from Peru year-round, but volumes taper off significantly between early January and June, said Rick Durkin, director of business development.

The company’s Mexico production began ramping up about Feb. 1 after a slow start, Durkin said.

“The days were in the 70s, but the nights were in the high 40s, and when you have those long, cool nights, you just don’t have any growth,” he said.

The crop was making up for it with a vengeance in the first half of February, though, with weekly volumes in the 1.3 million box range.

Shipments from Mexico will likely be heavy through March, with ample promotional opportunities expected in February and March, Durkin said.

On Feb. 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $11.75 for 11-pound cartons and crates of standard bunched green asparagus from Mexico, down from $17.50-19.75 last year at the same time.

Durkin reported a very good size profile on early Mexican asparagus.

“There’s a scarcity of small product, which is generally a good thing,” he said.

Volume up, prices down on Mexican asparagusWith the exception of some tops of spears bent from cold and wind, the quality of the Mexican crop was good, he said.

Weekly volumes from Peru as of the week of Feb. 13 were steady, though season-to-date volumes were down slightly from 2011, said Priscilla Lleras, coordinator for the Miami-based Peruvian Asparagus Importers Association.

“We remain optimistic that the remainder of the year will produce a consistent crop available to meet U.S. demand,” Lleras said.

Peruvian volumes, expected to peak in September and October, will supplement other sources over the next month or two, Lleras said.

Shippers have reported consistently good quality thus far this season, she said.

Demand for Peruvian asparagus in 2012 is expected to stay on the same growth curve of recent years, Lleras said.

“Demand over the past several years for asparagus has continued to be consistent in the U.S.,” she said. “Fresh asparagus has been a reliable and dependable category within the US produce departments.”

Meanwhile, in California, as of mid-February growers reported good growing conditions and were on track to begin harvesting about mid-March, said Cherie Watte Angulo, executive director of the El Centro-based California Asparagus Commission.

That could change, however, if markets are depressed, Angulo said. In that case, she said, growers could disk under asparagus and try again when prices were higher.