Cold, rainy weather was delaying the beginning of the Mexican asparagus season, sending prices past $40 a box.

In the first half of January all asparagus entering the U.S. was coming from Peru, but warm weather there was closing fields, said  Jeff Friedman, president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based CarbAmericas Inc.

Mexican asparagus won’t start packing until the end of the week of Jan. 18, late because of unseasonably cold weather, Friedman said. Typically Mexico kicks off about Jan. 15.

The result, Friedman said, has been very high prices and a reluctance among customers to buy.

“The market is very active. With $40 markets, customers aren’t knocking down doors. They’re saying ‘Send me a couple pallets instead of six.’”

On Jan. 12, 11-pound cartons of bunched green jumbo and extra-large asparagus from Peru was selling for $42 on the Miami terminal market, up from $35-36 last year at the same time.

Production in the Mexican region of Caborca will get off to a “staggered start” this season because of bad weather, said James Paul, asparagus salesman for Stockton, Calif.-based Grower Direct Marketing LLC and asparagus salesman and director of sales and marketing for Stockton-based Greg Paul Produce Sales Inc.

“It’s been cold with a lot of moisture, and they haven’t been able to burn fields to get them ready.”

In addition to the bad weather, growers in Mexico have also been limited by new regulations on when and how they can burn fields, Paul said.

Combined with the virtual end of Peruvian shipments, the result has been very strong demand.

“We’re seeing record pricing,” Paul said.

Caborca harvests for Los Angeles-based The Giumarra Cos. have been delayed several weeks by the cold weather and the new burning regulations, said Bruce Dowhan, the company’s asparagus division manager.

“Weather permitting, we expect promotable volumes to be available starting the first part of February. Market pricing will likely ease quite a bit, and then perhaps gradually give rise as the market meets Easter’s demand in late March.”

Typically, Dowhan said, prices tick up as the Caborca season winds down in early May.  

Prices will start to come down as Caborca ramps up, but it won’t be the typically steep decline the industry sees in January, Paul said.

“They’ll relax some by the end of January, but it won’t be rapid freefall.”

It will likely be mid-February, Paul said, before retailers will start to promote Mexican asparagus aggressively. Those promotions will last through mid-March at the earliest and possibly extend into April, he said.

F.o.b.s should start to come down the week of Jan. 18 as the industry gears up for the start of the Mexican deal, Friedman said. That process should then accelerate throughout the month.

“By the first of February, markets should be in the teens, and then off we go.”