Asparagus markets will likely stay strong until June, when new-crop volumes from central Mexico begin shipping.

May asparagus markets to stay strong

Courtesy Rasmussen Marketing

Sarah Rasmussen, food safety/quality assurance manager, (left) and Maria Rasmussen, agronomist, for Yakima, Wash.-based Rasmussen Marketing Inc., inspect new-crop asparagus.

Unfortunately, said Sharon Heer, general manager of Yakima, Wash.-based Rasmussen Marketing Inc., the spring asparagus deal in Washington is following the lead of Spring 2010.

“We’re down 50% from last year, and last year was down 50% from the year before,” Heer said May 10. “The weather has been very uncooperative.”

April was one of the coldest on record in Washington, Heer said. As a result, shippers mostly missed out on Easter pull.

May was following suit, with only two days over 70 degrees through May 10, she said. That meant shippers also couldn’t take full advantage of Mother’s Day demand.

One silver lining, Heer said, was that the Washington cherry season was expected to be significantly delayed this year.

That means that pickers who normally leave asparagus fields for cherry orchards in June may be on hand to pick asparagus, she said.

“We’re hoping to be able to cut until the 4th of July,” Heer said.

On May 10, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $46.75-48.75 for 28-pound cartons of bunched standard asparagus from Washington and California, about the same as last year at the same time, which was $48.75-50.75.

In Michigan, meanwhile, harvest is running about 10 days behind schedule, with promotable volumes expected the week of May 23, said John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, DeWitt.

Volumes will likely begin to taper off the third week of June, with the deal expected to wind down at the end of June, Bakker said.

Bakker expected the strong early May markets to hold steady through the Michigan season.

Between 6 and 7 million pounds of fresh asparagus will likely ship from Michigan this season, 20% more than last season, when harvest came early and the crop was severely damaged by late frosts, Bakker said.

Quality should be outstanding out of Michigan this season, with sizes peaking on standards, Bakker said.

Mild May weather will likely extend the California asparagus deal through to the end of the month, said James Paul, salesman for Greg Paul Produce, Stockton, Calif., and Altar Produce LLC, Calexico, Calif.

Demand will likely also stay strong through at least the fourth week of May, Paul said.

It will soften, though, in June, when new-crop asparagus from Mexico enters the pipeline, Paul said. Greg Paul Produce expects to begin sourcing from central Mexico in early June, with promotable volumes expected by the second half of the month.

Cool, wet weather in central Mexico could affect quality and yields, Paul said.