Volumes of Peruvian asparagus that were much larger than expected sent markets plummeting in late October, said Peter Warren, marketing and sales director for Pompano Beach-based Ayco Farms Inc.
Mexico also is shipping more than expected, Warren said. Ayco Farms is sourcing about 85% of its fall asparagus from Peru, the balance from Mexico.
“It’s an interesting dichotomy,” Warren said. “The perception was there would be a lot less from Mexico and a lot less from Peru.”
Instead, as of Nov. 4, both countries’ exports to the U.S. were up year-to-date over last year, and weekly volumes in late October were comparable to typical years, Warren said.
Unfortunately for Ayco and other companies, that knowledge came too late to schedule ads.
“We reneged on some ads and promos and went to the spot market, and the deal slowed down like crazy,” he said. “If we had known (volumes would be above earlier expectations), our behavior would have been a lot different.”
On Nov. 5, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $17 for 11-pound cartons of extra-large bunched green asparagus from Peru, down from $21-22 last year at the same time.
Peruvian volumes both by air and vessel were plentiful as October turned to November, said Jeff Friedman, president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based CarbAmericas Inc.
“It doesn’t seem like Peru has a shortage of product,” he said.
Peruvian volumes should be steady through Thanksgiving and Christmas, with a slight increase expected for the fourth quarter of 2013, said Priscilla Lleras, coordinator for the Miami-based Peruvian Asparagus Importers Association.
Demand this fall has been stable, Lleras said.
An influx of Mexican asparagus on the West Coast has slowed demand for Peruvian product, Friedman said.
“It’s kept the market very low now,” he said Nov. 4. “Thanksgiving is going to be a little lackluster.”
Prices for Thanksgiving would likely be in the high teens or low 20s, Friedman said. After the holiday, however, things should perk up.
“Mexico will dry up a little bit and all hell will break loose,” he said. “We’ll see a very good market again.”
CarbAmericas is importing a lot of standard and extra-large asparagus, but large-sized grass is more scarce, Friedman said.
Warren said quality has been very good but that sizing has been inconsistent.