(March 16) Californian asparagus volumes may equal last year’s level despite a 15% reduction in acreage every year since 2000.

That’s because the state’s volume hasn’t declined at the same rate, said Cherie Watte, executive director of the California Asparagus Commission, Stockton.

“We expect to have the same promotable quantities in the market as last year,” she said.

Growers in Washington state are expecting typical volumes.

“Supplywise, we’re going to have ample volume of asparagus,” said Bryon Magnaghi, manager of Walla Walla Gardeners’ Association, Walla Walla, Wash.

A wet winter this year kept the soil moist, unlike last year’s dry winter conditions, which hampered the crop, he said.

If temperatures stay as low as last year, a slight decrease in yield may occur, Magnaghi added.

Pat McDonald, owner of Pacific Marketing International Inc., Yakima, Wash., agreed that Washington weather had been good for asparagus.

“We had a cool fall, which cooled off the asparagus and put it into dormancy, which is good for the plants’ vitality,” McDonald said.

A wetter-than-normal winter hydrated the grounds and brought nitrogen into the roots, she said, adding that volume out of the state should begin seven to 10 days after the first harvest April 10.

In Michigan, volumes could be back to last year’s level after a 6 million-pound decline from 2004 to 2005, said John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, DeWitt.

Last year’s drop in production was due in part to hot and dry conditions in the state, Bakker said.

A declining processing market for Michigan, which has prominently serviced the processed asparagus market in the past, has caused growers to cut down on acreage, he said, adding that the state has experienced a slight acreage decline every year.

However, more favorable conditions this year over last year’s should cause the volume to level out this year, Bakker added.

“It’s too early to tell, but if we have a good season with adequate moisture and not too hot, I think we could reach last year’s volume,” Bakker said.

Last April, 28-pound cartons of bunched green asparagus in the Stockton delta district of California were $38.75 for larges and $38.75-40.75 for standards.

In Salinas, 28-pound cartons of bunched grass were $44-45.75 for larges and standards.

F.o.b.s for this year were not available by March 14.