Mexico, California open dialogue about deals

01/27/2012 10:56:00 AM
Jim Offner

With Mexico’s asparagus season reaching year-round proportions, California’s industry is hoping the two don’t collide during the latter’s March-through-May deal.

Mexico can present some strong competition, some shippers say, and the industry is trying to ensure it doesn’t incur any damage as a result of Mexico’s presence.

“Year-round supply has definitely affected all production regions,” said Cherie Watte Angulo, executive director of the El Centro-based California Asparagus Commission.

“The California plan is to receive a competitive price for our product. Mexico has definitely had an impact on the California industry’s transition. We saw an acreage increase in Mexico, while California acreage decreased.”

California’s asparagus industry is whirring to life at the tail end of Mexico’s winter season, so it seems conceivable that the two wouldn’t clash, Watte Angulo said.

“No two years has been the same in my 10 years in this industry,” she said. “Our season now is typically in quantities in March, April and May. By that time, we should be the only production in there. It’s definitely the tail end of Mexico’s season. It has a great deal to do with how much we overlap.”

Opening a dialogue

California’s industry is communicating with its Mexican counterpart in a process Watte Angulo describes as a dialogue, rather than negotiation.

“This industry is — well, fragmented is too strong a word, I guess,” Watte Angulo said. “We had the opportunity to talk about how can we as an industry come together for orderly marketing so we are delivering a consistent quality to the marketplace. And we are talking.”

California and Mexico are competitors, but there are some commonalities that have to be kept in mind by both sides, Watte Angulo said.

“We do represent a different clientele, but we all have a common goal,” she said. “There were times when my counterparts did not talk at all — they were archenemies. But today, they’re working together toward a common goal.”

How fruitful the talks prove to be is anybody’s guess, said Marc Marchini, commission president and a partner in Stockton, Calif.-based A.M. Farms.

“I can’t guarantee they’re going to follow all the precepts,” he said. “Unfortunately, they have extended their season to a typical year-round type of thing, very much like Peru.


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