As volumes of purple and green asparagus start going down, both prices and demand remain steady for the popular vegetable.
“Relative to February and March, volumes are way down,” says Craig Rolandelli of San Ramon, Ca.-based JMB Produce. “Volume in April is about 1/3 what it was in the February-March timeframe. Mexico and California are running about where they were last year for April and year-over-year there is less acreage in California as labor rates are pushing growers out of asparagus into less labor intensive crops. But volume is increasing year over year out of Mexico in this same time period.”
While California is producing asparagus currently, parts of Mexico are also going and the Washington region is starting its production this week. Rolandelli notes that New Jersey may also be going into production while north of the border in Ontario, Canada, production is delayed by at least three weeks due to cold weather.
Demand looks even
“And demand has been steady for asparagus,” says Rolandelli, adding that while retail demand has been steady, open market demand has been very weak since February 1st.
That leaves relatively even pricing. “Pricing has been pretty steady since a few weeks before Easter,” says Rolandelli. “Right in that $40 -$50 range on 28-lbs. asparagus. It’s creeping up this week because California growers are getting to the end of their seasons and volume is about to drop. It’s in the high $50s-low $60s going into this weekend.”
Looking ahead, Rolandelli anticipates continually steady pricing since volume isn’t going to fluctuate much to affect a change. “The USDA numbers for the industry note that in February, shipping of asparagus at peak was just under 600 truckloads per week,” he says. “We’re down to 200 truckloads a week so it’s 1/3 the volume.”