Strong demand greets asparagus season start in New Jersey

05/31/2013 11:40:00 AM
Andrew Nelson

Asparagus growers in New Jersey expect strong demand this spring and summer, thanks to shortages and late starts in other growing regions.

Cedarville, N.J.-based Eastern Fresh Growers Inc. began cutting asparagus in mid-April, two weeks later than last year’s early start but closer to historical norms, president Tom Sheppard said.

While the starting time was normal, volumes were on the light side at the beginning of the deal due to to lingering cool weather, Sheppard said.

Other than yields, however, the effects felt by Mother Nature were minimal.

“The quality’s really good,” Sheppard said.

Asparagus volumes were beginning to ramp up for Eastern Fresh Growers by the week of April 29, Sheppard said.

“Wednesday we had twice as much as Tuesday, and Thursday there was more than Wednesday,” he said May 3.

A quick end to the California asparagus crop, a late start to the Michigan deal and light shipments from Peru were contributing to a very strong market as New Jersey prepared to get going, Sheppard said.

“Markets are real good,” he said. “There’s good demand on asparagus.”

Even with the cool weather, growers will make money at current prices, Sheppard said.

“Where the markets are now, there don’t need to be huge yields.”

Demand for Jersey asparagus has been so strong in recent years that Eastern Fresh has significantly increased its acreage, Sheppard said.

In the past three or four years, the company has planted several new fields.

“We had older fields that needed to be replaced, and we wanted more volume,” he said.

With the older fields, Eastern Fresh had 144 acres dedicated to asparagus. With the newer plantings, the company has 350.

The New Jersey asparagus deal was delayed a week for Cedarville-based Nardelli Bros. Inc., president Bill Nardelli said.

“It got off to a very slow start compared to last year, but it’s back to normal now.”

Nardelli expects strong demand for asparagus from the Garden State this year.

“What’s kept the market good is that there’s very little asparagus besides California and Washington,” he said. “Michigan had extremely cold weather. It’s given us a good corridor to run strong into the Midwest.”

Nardelli Bros. and other Jersey shippers missed out on taking full advantage of Easter demand because the holiday came early this year, but Mother’s Day saw strong pull, Nardelli said.

Growers in southern New Jersey began harvesting asparagus at the end of April, a little later than usual, said Ben Casella, field representative for the New Jersey Farm Bureau, Trenton.



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