Asparagus is often referred to as a thirsty crop, and quenching that thirst in the dry conditions of Peru is becoming an increasingly difficult and expensive task for growers, especially in the Ica Valley.
The Peruvian Network for an Equal Globalization reported earlier this year that fresh asparagus production in the Ica Valley area takes 35% of the area’s available water.
In addition to depleting the aquifer, the irrigation necessary for healthy asparagus is becoming cost prohibitive, so some growers are switching to other crops.
Macario Gonzalez, procurement director for Gourmet Trading Co., Los Angeles, said the natural life cycle of some asparagus fields also is contributing to a decrease in acreage.
“Many of the fields that were part of the initial boom of (Peru’s) asparagus exports are now toward the end of their life cycle,” Gonzalez said.
“As increased costs and weaker exchange rates continue, many growers look into other commodities that bring higher returns back to their farms. We’ve seen more asparagus fields plowed up than new fields come in during the past couple of years.”
Avocados and grapes are particularly attractive to Peruvian asparagus growers right now, said Walter Yager, East Coast chairman of the Miami-based Peruvian Asparagus Importers Association.
“There aren’t a lot of new asparagus acres going in,” said Yager, who is also chief executive officer of Alpine Fresh, Fort Pierce, Fla.
In fact, the major agricultural exporter Agricola Athos, Lima, Peru, has been removing huge plots of asparagus from production. Manual Checa, a co-owner, told the BBC earlier this year that the company has already “killed” 20% of its asparagus and has plans to do away with another 20% this year.
Agricola Athos directly manages 2,400 acres that belong to its partners and provides technical and marketing services to owners of another 1,200 acres, according to its website. Along with asparagus, the company grows and ships a variety of other vegetables and fruits.