Demand expected strong for California asparagus - The Packer

Demand expected strong for California asparagus

01/28/2011 01:29:03 PM
Andy Nelson

Demand for California product should be very strong this season, Paul predicts. Outstanding quality and brisk movement out of Mexico is setting the table nicely for the Golden State, he said.

A late Easter will mean that California will have less competition for meeting customers’ holiday needs.

“I expect pricing to hover around $30-34 at the low end, and the high end could be $50 and above,” he said. “I see a very, very good market ahead for California.”

The wild card, as usual, Paul said, is Peru. But he thinks the gap in quality between California and Peru will sway consumers California’s way.

“With California and Mexico, the asparagus is usually on your plate within a couple of days of being picked,” he said.

“A high percentage of Peruvian product comes in by boat, which means it’s at least two weeks old. There’s definitely a difference in eating experience.”

Angulo agreed.

“We believe consumers value the fact that our crop is shipped in a matter of hours after harvest, insuring the product is as fresh as possible,” she said.

Consumers also like the fact, Angulo said, that California packs 9-inch spears, ensuring more product per bunch.

Demand should be strong for all sizes, Paul said. Television, in large part, deserves much of the credit for that.

“The Food Network has had a big impact on getting people to open their eyes to different sizes,” he said.

“Retailers are more likely to try extra-larges, or smalls. There’s a lot of testing going on.”

While Greg Paul’s acreage has remained steady, the industry as a whole continues to downsize.

“In general, there’s a real downward spiral in California,” he said. “Chances are higher than not that acreage will continue to decrease.”

However, Ed Zuckerman, president and chief executive officer of Stockton-based Zuckerman-Heritage Inc. and a commission board member, said 2011 acreage was similar to last year, and he predicted acreage would likely remain steady over the next few years.

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