California asparagus grower-shippers and industry officials expect excellent quality, a smooth transition from Mexico and similar volumes as in 2010.

James Paul, salesman for Greg Paul Produce, Stockton, Calif., and Altar Produce LLC, Calexico, Calif., said Greg Paul Produce should begin shipping from the Stockton region toward the end of February, about on time.

The deal will likely wind down at the end of May or beginning of June, also typical, Paul said.

Paul expects a smooth transition from Mexico. Mexican product has been moving through the pipeline at a brisk pace, in large part because of very good quality this season, he said.

Greg Paul Produce expects to market its typical 1,000 to 1,100 acres in the Stockton area, Paul said.

As of Jan. 24, it was shaping up to a season of high-quality asparagus.

“We’ve had ideal growing weather,” Paul said, citing abundant rains and chill hours.

In Stockton the week of Jan. 17, growers had to dig down six to eight inches to find shoots, said Tom Tjerandsen, marketing consultant for the California Asparagus Commission, El Centro.

In Salinas, Calif., however, asparagus was much closer to being ready for harvest, Tjerandsen said.

“Growers have been able to get in to shape beds, and they haven’t had the heavy fogs that have prevented drying,” he said. “It’s right on time.”

California growers will likely wait until Mexico is finished before they begin shipping heavily, Tjerandsen said.

Mexico was expected to finish early this year, most likely in the second week of February, he said.

The southern end of the San Joaquin Valley will kick off the Golden State deal, with Salinas, then Stockton, following, Tjerandsen said.

As of mid-January, the growing weather had been good in all California regions, he said.

“They haven’t had anything to suggest anything but top quality,” Tjerandsen said. “It’s the first year in three they’ve had enough rain.”

Growers in some parts of the state who had been worried about getting their water allocations seemed more confident in January, Tjerandsen said.

“It appears they’ll be granted,” he said.

After years of acreage reductions because of increased competition from import deals, production could actually go up this year, Tjerandsen said, even if acreage remains largely unchanged from 2010.

“There’s a new variety this year, and that tends to mean higher production,” he said.

Cherie Watte Angulo, executive director of commission, also looks forward to an excellent 2011 for California asparagus producers.

“We anticipate an exceptional crop,” she said. “Weather has been ideal leading up to the beginning of our asparagus harvest.”

Promotable volumes should begin shipping from California in March, and be available for about 90 days, Angulo said.

For 2011, Angulo expects about 40 million pounds of asparagus produced on about 12,000 acres, similar to 2010 numbers.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 11,500 acres are expected to be harvested in California in 2011, down from 13,000 in 2009, 15,000 in 2008 and 20,800 in 2007.

The week of Jan. 24, growers anticipated a steady and gradual increase in soil temperatures, which will signal plants to come out of hibernation and to begin pushing up spears, Angulo said.

“Once the season begins, we expect superior crop quality,” she said.

“We are fortunate, as minor weather events like rain will not likely affect overall crop quality.”

Like other officials and growers, she expects a good transition from Mexico to California.

“We anticipate Mexican production winding down as we gear up,” she said. “Mexican production areas have experienced higher than normal temperatures lately, which could indicate an early transition from one production region to another.”