HUDSONVILLE, Mich. — Some asparagus was damaged by a late April freeze, but for the most part, Michigan shippers expect normal volumes and good quality.
Todd Greiner Farms began shipping asparagus May 7, a few days earlier than normal, said Tyler Hodges, the company’s sales manager.
As of April 1, the company thought the crop might come off weeks, not days, earlier than usual, thanks to an abnormally warm March, Hodges said. Cold weather in April, however, restored the crop to a more normal schedule.
April freezes knocked out a couple of pickings, Hodges said. But Greiner Farms typically picks about 25 times a season, so the effect on overall volumes will likely be minimal, he said.
Post-freeze weather, meanwhile, was yielding very good quality in mid-May, Hodges said. As is typical in Michigan, asparagus early in the deal would lean toward big sizes, with standard sizes taking over the lion’s share later in the deal, he said.
As for demand, sluggish asparagus markets this winter gave way to exceptionally strong markets in May, Hodges said.
“We’ve had excellent timing,” he said. “Usually demand goes down right after Mother’s Day. This year it went up.”
May demand for Michigan asparagus was “overwhelming,” said Todd DeWaard, sales manager for Hudsonville-based Superior Sales.
“I used to think we competed with Peru, but not anymore,” he said. “Now it’s like we set the market.”
The super-warm March originally had Superior on track for an April 15 start, DeWaard start. The cooler April pushed the start date back closer to normal.
Jumbos, in particular, should be a popular grilling option for Memorial Day revelers this year, said John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, DeWitt.
Weather issues in California and Washington are forcing more buyers to turn their eyes to Michigan for domestic asparagus.
Very little California asparagus will likely make it to other states this season, thanks in part to lower acreage in the state and to growing demand for locally-grown product, said John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, DeWitt.
“California is looking like they will consume (up to) 90%,” of the state’s asparagus shipments, Bakker said.
Michigan’s asparagus acreage also has fallen thanks to increasing import pressure from Peru and Mexico. But not only has It likely reached a bottom, thanks to surging demand, it could go back up, Bakker said.
“We were up to 20,000 acres, now we’re just below 10,000, and at one point I thought we’d bottom out around 8,500,” he said. “It could easily see us coming up a little bit.”
No that he was complaining about it, but Hodges said demand was so strong out of the gate for Michigan asparagus, it was a struggle for Michigan shippers to keep up.
“It’s hard for Michigan, as small as we are,” he said. “There’s not enough to go around.”
Import deals could play a role in how long demand for Michigan asparagus remains strong, Hodges said, but he was optimistic.
“We’ll have to keep an eye on whether Mexico wants to cut early, and I’ve heard Peru is loading some boats, but it should remain fairly strong throughout.”