National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

Asparagus is hot, with March 8 prices of better than $38 per carton for Mexican asparagus. That up from $22-25 per carton the same time a year ago.

Mexican crossings of asparagus for the week ending March 2 were off 22% from the same week a year ago, and season-to-date shipments from Mexico are off more than 30% from the same time a year ago. The USDA’s March 8 retail report showed that 3,040 retail stores promoted asparagus at an average price of $2.65. That compares to more aggressive asparagus promotions a year ago, when 5,419 stores promoted asparagus at a price of $2.11 per pound. Still, The Packer’s Andy Nelson reports that increasing supply of asparagus from California in early March should begin to open the door to promotable volume for Easter, which this year will be pm March 31.


Checking the headlines this morning, I see that the Wendy Brannen is leaving the Vidalia Onion Committee to take a job with the U.S. Apple Association. Coverage by Coral Beach indicates that Brannen, who has been with the committee since 2005, will leave her position as the executive director within the next few weeks.

Brannen made headlines with marketing and social media campaigns, and it will be interesting to see how she plugs into U.S. Apple as the group’s director of consumer health and public relations. From the premium/niche marketing position for Vidalia onions, Brannen’s approach to maximize the health message and public relation wins for “generic” apples will be fun to watch.

Previous to the onion committee, Brannen had managed the Vidalia Onion Museum project in Vidalia from 2006 to 2011. Before that, Brannen had been a involved with the television industry in both on-air and management capacities.


 The Canadian potato industry is reeling from low prices, and there is talk of a national organization to combat low prices. I’m checking with PEI folks and other contacts in the U.S. to see how far progressed is the talk of a new national potato group in Canada.


 I see that the California Table Grape Commission has reported that shipments tallied 100.1 million 19-pound box equivalents during the 2012 season, from May last year to the end of January this year.

It is amazing that California shipped just 20 million boxes in 1971. Output rose to 50 million by 1982, 70 million by 1995 and 90 billion boxes in 1997. And now 100 million plus.

The latest FreshFacts report from Nielsen Perishables and United Fresh shows fourth quarter retail grape sales were up an amazing 14.8%, pushed higher by a 0.9% gain in volume and a 13.8% rise in the average price, to $2.21 per pound.

To continue that thought, how is the Chilean season going? USDA stats show season to date grape imports from Chile are off 5% so far; USDA's retail promotion report reveals that promoted prices are up and the number of stores promoting grapes are down. The March 8 report show white seedless grapes were promoted at 6,102 stores at an average price of $.248 per pound. That compares with last year at the same time, when white seedless grapes were promoted at 8,065 stores at an average price of $1.66 per pound.



Of passing note


USDA tweaked country of origin proposal for meat


Register for PBH March 28 web event on pesticide residues on produce


USDA reports that U.S. imports of fresh vegetables from October 2012 through January 2013 totaled $2.1 billion, up 1.1% compared with the same period last year.