“April marks the midpoint for pre-peak season that begins in August and September,” she said.
California, which started harvesting at the beginning of March, is predicted to produce 36 million pounds of asparagus during its 90-day season of March through May, said Cherie Watte Angulo, executive director of the El Centro-based California Asparagus Commission.
“Retailers should see the same volume out of California as they have seen in the past two to three years,” Watte Angulo said. “Volumes are consistent and acreage has stabilized.”
May holiday supplies
Grower-shippers — particularly in California — remained optimistic in the second and third weeks of March about supplies a month out, and with Easter behind them marketers could look ahead to the next big holidays for asparagus: Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.
“The beginning of April we should see Mexico dwindle down. Therefore, there will be a big demand on Northern California for the Mother’s Day pull,” said Paul Auerbach, president and chief executive officer of Maurice A. Auerbach Inc., Secaucus, N.J., which serves Northeastern U.S.
He said asparagus is the largest growing segment of his business.
“Our customers have come to rely on us as the primary supplier because of our availability, inventory, quality and service and as well as our distribution capabilities,” Auerbach said.
Shifting market windows
California had the domestic market window to themselves for several weeks until Washington product began to roll in after Easter. In mid-March, Alan Schreiber, executive director of the Washington Asparagus Commission, Eltopia, said harvest was set to begin the first of April, and he expects volume out of the state to be close to last year’s 20 million pounds.
“I know the supply was insufficient last year, and I expect a similar situation this year,” Schreiber said.
In Michigan, John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, DeWitt, said signs point to a start around the first week of May, with promotable volumes by mid-May.
Last year’s mild weather brought the crop up early, especially in Michigan’s southern growing regions, only to get hit by several freezes in April, causing production to be down 17% from last year.
“Right now, with snow on the ground, we’re feeling good about the weather to hold the crop back a little bit,” Bakker said in late March.