Asparagus prices set to rise in time for Easter - The Packer

Asparagus prices set to rise in time for Easter

04/05/2012 02:14:00 PM
Cynthia David

With Peru asparagus returning to the U.S., Yager expects markets to remain in the high teens for most of the next six months.

Bill Tarleton, director of marketing and communication for Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc. said a 28-pound box of California standard and large asparagus ranged from $40.75-$44.75 on March 20.

He said Mission ended its Mexican deal in early March and expects to continue harvesting in California until early June, when it will move to Peru, where most of its asparagus grows.

“So far, the California crop is in good condition, quality is excellent and demand is very strong,” Tarleton said.

Asparagus becomes staple

Year-round availability and a great nutrition profile have transformed asparagus from an expensive spring treat to a staple in many homes, Tarleton said.

“The nutritional value is huge,” he said. “Just like our avocados, it has helped move asparagus to the top of the list.”

Tracy Wood, sales manager of the Southeast office of Greencastle, Pa.-based Keystone Fruit Marketing, Inc., is also seeing continued growth in retail demand and shelf space.

“We are seeing some cross-promotion and cross-merchandising with asparagus and other commodities in the produce department, such as artichokes and corn,” Wood said.

Fresh asparagus has even been spotted in the meat department.

Higher fuel costs going into the summer are a concern for the entire industry from a production and distribution standpoint, Wood said.

Yager said the industry’s biggest challenge this year may be encouraging retailers to continue driving demand by promoting asparagus, but at a higher price point.

“We need the promotions,” he said, “but we also need prices at $2.29 or $2.49 a pound instead of the $1.99 the retailer may have in mind.”

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