Asparagus marketers anticipate strong demand and a challenging market during the Passover and Easter period this year.
Walter Yager, chief executive officer of Alpine Fresh Inc., Miami, said he expects to see strong demand that results in supply shortages.
“Everybody knows there’ll be a shortage,” said Jeff Friedman, president and sales manager of Carb Americas Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla. “Everybody’s quoting a high price, but who really knows how much will go through on $60 prices on 28-pounders?”
Tim Hallows, Western region marketing manager for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif., said he expects the Easter asparagus market to be near $50.
Easter falls on April 24 this year, about three weeks later than last year. Prices for 28-pound pyramid cartons and crates of bunched green standard-sized asparagus crossing from Mexico through Calexico, Calif., and San Luis, Ariz., on March 31, 2010, were at $34-75-36.75, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported. That was just four days before Easter.
Prices on March 30, 2011, still more than three weeks before Easter, were much lower, at $22.75-24.75 for 28-pound pyramid cartons and crates of bunched green standard-sized asparagus crossing from Mexico.
California typically has promotable quantities from about March into June, said Cherie Watte Angulo, executive director of the California Asparagus Commission, El Centro. Growers expect promotable volumes for Easter and Mother’s Day, she said. Easter’s late date is a good thing for California growers.
“Early can be a problem when there’s overlap in supply from Mexico,” Angulo said. “This year, Mexico should be done and we can have the Easter market for California.”
As always, it depends on the weather, but Angulo said she expects California to be a primary supplier for the Easter market. Leo Rolandelli, president and general manager of Jacobs, Malcolm & Burtt Inc., San Francisco, said he expects California to have a fair supply of asparagus for Easter, and prices will likely be higher than they are when Mexico has supplies. Increased fuel costs this year also mean higher freight charges.
Hallows said he expects California supplies to be supplemented with Peruvian asparagus to fill strong Easter demand. High quality asparagus can endure shipping from Peru to the U.S. by boat, but it’s more likely that it will be shipped by air, which is more expensive.
Julia Inestroza, marketing director, said she expected Los Angeles-based Gourmet Trading Co. to be sourcing asparagus from Washington by mid-April. Because New Jersey will not have started yet, Friedman said he expects importers to look to Peru to supply product for Easter.