(Nov. 6) MIAMI — Already well-known for its role as an importer of Peruvian asparagus, Alpine Marketing Corp. is taking part in the production side, partnering with Complejo Beta S.A. in the country’s major production area in the Ica Valley.

The additional 900-hectare production (about 2,200 acres) will allow Alpine Marketing to more than double its Peruvian asparagus volumes in three to four years, chief executive officer Walter Yager said Nov. 6.

The company currently imports about 1.6 million 11-pound cartons of Peruvian asparagus during the season, which typically lasts from June to January.

“We feel consumption is growing, and the production base wasn’t growing as quickly as consumption,” Yager said about Alpine Peru, the equal partnership with Complejo Beta.

Alpine, which has marketed asparagus from Peru for 13 years, has used Complejo Beta and another grower-shipper, APEISA (Asociacion de Productores de Esparragos de Ica S.A.) for about seven years. Faced with growing consumer and retailer demand, Alpine could either ink new deals with other growers, or expand the current relationships.

Yager chose the latter.

“Growth is happening across the board, and we’re finding retailers see asparagus as a mainstream item and are looking to promote it as part of their category plan,” Yager said.

Asparagus production isn’t immediate; Yager said the new acreage will represent a 15% growth in next year’s volumes. Growth will continue to double in the next few years, however.

The agreement establishes Complejo Beta as the largest asparagus growing operation, he said, which will allow the company to experiment with different varieties and growing techniques.

Imports of Peruvian asparagus have tripled from 1998 to 2002, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. In 2002, nearly 1 million cwt. of Peruvian asparagus was shipped to the U.S.

Yager said he anticipates the market will grow for another four years, before leveling off and declining slightly.