When Peruvians look to export their asparagus, North America isn’t necessarily their best option.
“They can be more competitive pricewise in other parts of the world,” said Jeff Friedman, president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based CarbAmericas Inc. “They don’t necessarily have to come to the U.S. any more. Demand for asparagus worldwide is up.”
Europe, Canada and Australia are among the rivals to the U.S. for Peruvian supplies, Friedman said. India just opened its doors to Peruvian asparagus this year.
China could be another market on the horizon, said Peter Warren, marketing and sales director for Pompano Beach-based Ayco Farms Inc.
“Peru is very creative at finding alternative markets — Brazil, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand,” he said.
Priscilla Lleras, coordinator for the Miami-based Peruvian Asparagus Importers Association, said North America hasn’t been significantly affected by strong demand from Europe and other markets.
“There is a steady demand for Peruvian fresh asparagus here in the U.S., as the product continues to gain recognition for its nutritious attributes, value and convenience,” Lleras said. “I can only see that the demand would increase here in the U.S. — as it has historically.”
Carlos Solf, procurement director for Pompano Beach-based Southern Specialties, also sees increased competition from overseas.
“Peru is increasing volumes in Europe and Asia as demand growths in those areas,” Solf said.
In addition, Peruvian growers are replacing asparagus with grapes, citrus and avocados, but it won’t last forever, he said.
“It’s cyclical,” Solf said. “Growers will come back to asparagus when they see the growth of other markets and the price increase.”
Hungrier processing market
It’s not just other countries that are taking fresh Peruvian asparagus that in the past may have been slated for the U.S., importers said.
It’s also more Peruvian asparagus winding up in processed markets.
“(0ne) thing that’s kept pricing up has been the advent of processed markets in Peru,” Warren said. “When U.S. (prices) aren’t good enough, they seem to be doing a lot more volume that ever, at better prices.”
“The processed market is bigger now,” Friedman said. “It’s one of the reasons why there will be good returns back to growers in the next few years. A lot of processors have to fulfill that business, and it’s eating up the volumes going to fresh.”