(May 3) A late-April freeze put the brakes on what would have been an early Michigan asparagus harvest, and now Oceana County shippers plan to resume the week of May 8.

That still leaves some room for filling retail and foodservice Mother’s Day needs, and although California and Washington will be hitting peak volumes, Michigan shippers said freight rates will give them some advantage in shipping to the east.

Southwest Michigan growers in the Benton Harbor area were on their third or fourth harvest, and the Oceana County harvest farther north, where the bulk of the state’s asparagus is grown, had just begun when the April 25 freeze dropped temperatures to 28 degrees in most areas, said John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, DeWitt.

Overall, the state’s 4 million to 4.5 million-pound fresh asparagus crop could lose 5% of its volumes, Bakker said, but other than delaying the harvest 10 days to two weeks, the effects will be minimal. The crowns, which run parallel to the ground and produce the spears, are protected by 6-8 inches of soil, he said. Growers mowed the damaged spears above the ground.

“Generally speaking, you never have any more than 15% of your crop just at or above the ground at any time,” Bakker said.

On May 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 28-pound pyramid cartons/crates from Washington at $30-34.50 for large, and $32-36.50 for standard asparagus. In the Stockton Delta district, 28-pound cartons were $26.75-32.75 for large and $28.75-34.75 for standard sizes. There were no f.o.b.s issued for Michigan asparagus at that time.

Dan Mol, president of Mol Produce Co. Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich., said his company planned to have asparagus by May 6, which is still about four days before his company normally ships each spring. The setback could temper some of the competition between Michigan and Washington, he said, but there will still be heavy volumes available from all production areas by late May.

“We have run smack dab into (Washington volumes) … and California might have a peak at the same time we do,” Mol said.

Todd Miedema, sales manager for Hudsonville, Mich.-based Miedema Produce Inc., said the freeze destroyed 20 acres of the company’s radishes, but the asparagus crop will bounce back. On May 1, Miedema said a recent rain followed by forecasted 70-degree temperatures will give the crop a jump start.

“When you’re in Michigan, you know these things (freezes) can happen, and you plan for them,” he said. “A crop you can’t recover from, you don’t expose yourself to that kind of risk.”

Mol and Bakker said there should be less fresh-market pressure on markets, with a 12-cent per-pound bump in contract prices.

“Growers that like to straddle the fence or play both sides of the market will lean more toward the processing market because of that,” Mol said.