U.S. retailers can expect strong supplies of Mexican asparagus

02/13/2012 02:03:00 PM
Mike Hornick

Like a lot of Mexican crops — but unlike honeydew melons — asparagus is in ample supply after a winter milder than last year’s.

“The market’s a little depressed right now,” Reed Shipley, sales manager for Shipley Sales Service, Nogales, Ariz., said in late January.

“In past years, the Caborca asparagus deal started by Christmas. This year, it was at the end of the first week in January.”

Like grapes, Shipley said, asparagus benefits from a period of dormancy. It got that when colder-than-normal temperatures came to the region in November.

“That gives you a good set and a bigger, healthier crop,” Shipley said.

“It just delayed things a bit. The asparagus is real nice, but there’s too much of it now.”

Prices on asparagus as January wound down were about a dollar a pound, he said — or $28-30 a box.

“When the market’s short, 11-pounders are packed,” Shipley said.

“When it’s mediocre to poor, 28-pounders are packed as the trade mandates. It’s mostly 28-pounders now.”

Shipley Sales’ main item has been honeydews. Like other companies, they ran short of supply in some locations. Michoacan was the worst.

“We have chemicals to combat the white fly, but in Michoacan it was such a proliferation and a certain strain that it knocked us out,” Shipley said.

“In about 25 years of doing this, it was the first time we were knocked out by white fly. We’ve learned from it how to prevent this in the future.”

After a gap of four or five days, the company planned to start up honeydew production again in Guerrero, Mexico, early in February. That region has not been affected by white fly.

“Before the gap, we sold a fair amount of honeydew for $24,” Shipley said.

“It’s been this high in years past but it’s definitely rare.”



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