Some Peruvian asparagus importers are confident they will have adequate volumes to meet growing demand in the U.S. and Canada for the 2012-13 season.
Nelly Yunta, vice president of U.S. imports, customs brokerage and consulting for Customized Brokers, Miami, said she expects the import volume from the world’s biggest exporter of asparagus to remain steady. However, she stopped short of predicting quality of the crop or prices, saying it is still too early in the season.
At Mission Produce, Oxnard, Calif., retail sales manager Cruz Carerra predicts “very good quality” as peak harvest begins in many regions in July. He also, however, declined to make volume or price predictions, citing various factors, such as increasing world demand for fresh and frozen asparagus, in the past three years that have had an impact on prices.
The U.S. continues to be Peru’s biggest asparagus customer, according to statistics from the U.S. and Peruvian government agencies.
Of the 384 million tons of fresh asparagus the U.S. imported in 2011, 49% came from Peru. That was about half of the Andean nation’s crop, according to statements from William Arteaga, agribusiness coordinator for the Peru commission for exports and tourism known as PromPeru. He said he is confident in the continued success of Peruvian asparagus in the U.S. market.
“In an age of crisis, sales of products that are considered to be luxuries are expected to drop off, and prices are lowered,” Arteaga told Latintrade.com.
“But in the midst of the 2009 crisis, the value of asparagus rose in the U.S. Fresh succeeds because people who go to certain supermarkets and also restaurants — fine cuisine — still buy.”
Enough for growing demand?
Increasing per capita asparagus consumption in the U.S. supports Arteaga’s assessment. The Peruvian Asparagus Importers Association reports Americans are eating 33% more fresh asparagus now than they were a decade ago.
In 2002, annual per capita consumption was 1.2 pounds. By 2011, Americans were eating an average of 1.6 pounds of fresh asparagus each year.
Even though Peru’s overall asparagus exports increased 7.4% in 2011 compared to 2010, some U.S. importers are speaking cautiously about available volumes.
Tracy Wood, Southeast salesman for Greencastle, Pa.-based Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc., said yields would likely be lower through July.
“Prices will be in the mid- to high $20s and will maintain in the mid-$20s through the beginning of August,” Wood said.
“It’s too early to tell how the fall crop will do. We are still getting projections from our growing partners. Volumes may continue to be down a bit through the rest of the year.”
Walter Yager, chief executive officer of Alpine Fresh, Doral, Fla., predicts volumes will likely be down as much as 10% for the 2012-13 season, citing several factors such as labor and other production costs.
“Overall the market will probably see pricing about 10% higher than last year,” Yager said.
At Gourmet Trading Co., Los Angeles, procurement director Macario Gonzalez said Peru’s export volumes to the U.S. have decreased compared to initial projections he received at the beginning of this year. He said a variety of factors, including asparagus acres being taken out of production to make way for other crops, could have a long-term effect on supplies.
“These factors and above average weather have caused an added strain to the market so far (for 2012-13),” Gonzalez said.