(March 9) Easter promotions should feature strong supplies of strawberries, asparagus and sweet potatoes, marketers said March 7.

January’s freeze hurt availability of artichokes and citrus, but most other items are available in good volumes, marketers and retailers said.

Mike O’Brien, vice president of produce for Schnuck Markets Inc., St. Louis, said asparagus and strawberries are two key items in the produce department for Easter, but that’s not all.

“It’s a great holiday for all produce in general, merchandising the whole berry patch, and you want to have full and fresh vegetables,” he said.

O’Brien said retailers want to take advantage of shoppers being in their stores. Depending on the weather, the holiday could feature commodities used in outdoor grilling.

O’Brien said the January freeze decimated artichoke supplies and little artichoke volume is expected for Easter.

However, suppliers tell him that California asparagus quality may have actually benefited from the cold.

This year’s Easter date of April 8 will feature a transition of asparagus supply from Mexico to California, with Washington asparagus just beginning in early April.

Mexican asparagus accounted for about 98% of total U.S. asparagus shipments in early March. That will switch markedly by April, though acreage has declined in the Stockton Delta region. California’s share of shipments was 54% in April 2006.

Meanwhile, strawberry volume will be split between California, Florida and some supply from Mexico. In early March, Florida’s shipments accounted for 64% of the U.S. total, while California’s share was 23% and Mexico accounted for about 13% of strawberry volume.

In April last year, California accounted for 82% of strawberry shipments.

Sweet potato volume is expected stable from storage growing regions in North Carolina, Mississippi, California and Louisiana. North Carolina accounted for about 68% of sweet potato shipments in April last year. In early March, North Carolina accounted for more than 40% of U.S. sweet potato shipments.

Outlook positive for Easter produce promos
Easter promotions should feature strong supplies of strawberries, asparagus and sweet potatoes. This year’s Easter date of April 8 will feature a transition of asparagus supply from Mexico to California, with Washington asparagus just beginning in early April.