Asparagus importers expect weak markets to strengthen as Christmas nears and volumes from Peru decrease.

Asparagus markets expected to strengthen

Peruvian asparagus volumes were steady in mid-November for Miami-based Crystal Valley Foods, said Rick Durkin, director of business development.

But as harvest in the country’s Ica region winds down and production switches to the north, that will likely change, Durkin said.

“In December supplies will get tighter,” he said. “It’s been a colder than normal year, and yields are a little less than normal.”

Carb Americas Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla., expects a volume drop of up to 20% in December, with prices possibly rising above $20 per carton as a result, said Jeff Friedman, sales manager.

Mid-November, however, which was characterized by typical volumes and sluggish demand, was a different story, Friedman said.

“Everybody thought Thanksgiving was going to be a good holiday to promote, but the market has been so depressed, it’s been hard to generate a spot market and demand,” he said.

On Nov. 16, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $12-13 for 5-kilogram cartons of bunched large green asparagus, down from $17 last year at the same time.

Orders were starting to pick up the week of Nov. 15, Friedman said.

Through mid-November, 2010 Peruvian volumes were down 21% from last year, said Macario Gonzalez, procurement supervisor for Los Angeles-based Gourmet Trading Inc.

Brian Miller, Gourmet Trading’s sales manager, also expected stronger markets in December.

“Prices have strengthened as holiday demand has kicked in, and should continue to improve as we gear up for Christmas and New Year promotions,” Miller said.

Argentine grower-shipper Agrolosandes expects to ship organic asparagus to the U.S. through December, said Maria Pia Larsson, export manager.

After a flat October, Larsson reported stronger demand in November, a trend that should continue as Christmas nears.

Some growers’ asparagus harvests are winding down two weeks earlier than normal because the amount of carbohydrates in asparagus crowns has dropped more quickly than normal, Durkin said.

“It’s been a very unusual year because of the Niña,” Durkin said of the weather pattern that has affected Peruvian growers for months. “We were down there last week, and it was still abnormally cold.”

Crystal Valley reported good quality and size profile in mid-November, with sizes peaking on standards and larges, Durkin said. Sizes for Carb Americas also were peaking on standards and large