“We’re trying to convince them to more fill in the gaps during our season because California can’t supply all the demand. But fill in the gaps, but don’t step on our season by lowballing the price,” he said.
An impact on returns
There’s no denying that Mexican asparagus finds its way to retail shelves during California’s season, and that can weigh down returns to California growers, Watte Angulo said.
“Sometimes at the end of their seasons, they have cold rooms full and they just move it, when we have new product that is of higher quality, in my opinion, and deserved a premium price. ... That Mexican product definitely has an impact on the market, and that’s what we’re trying to address,” she said.
Mission Produce Inc., an Oxnard, Calif.-based grower-shipper, pays attention to Mexican production, and the assessment there is that Mexico’s influence on California’s deal seems minimal, said Cruz Carrera, asparagus operations director.
“It typically comes to an end at the end of March or early April, depending on conditions,” he said. “I guess it really hasn’t had too much of an impact overall.”
James Paul plays for both sides. He’s a salesman for Greg Paul Produce Sales Inc., Stockton, Calif., and Calexico, Calif-based Altar Produce LLC, Calexico, Calif.
“There’s been a lot of complaints out of the growing region in Stockton that the Mexican product has taken them out of business, so to speak,” Paul said. “The reality is, the Mexicans do come in at a different time.”
And, he said, Mexico plays an important role in ensuring that the North American market is supplied.
“You couldn’t grow asparagus in Stockton today,” he said in mid-January. “We had a 29-degree night this week. It’s frozen and the wrong time to grow. We have a different harvesting window.
“There is a small amount of overlap, no question, and that amount of overlap has continued to motivate guys to grow other items. They have the land, resources and money for it; let’s see if they have the stomach to put it in,” he said.