(Jan. 5) The Peruvian Asparagus Importer’s Association said today that it would stick with its efforts towards free trade and related initiatives by supporting the Andean Trade Preferences Act, or “ATPA.”

The Drexel Hill, Pa.-based association said in a Jan. 5 news release that its members are a key part of the supply chain for the $285 million in Peruvian-grown asparagus imported into the U.S. Congress approved an extension of ATPA in early December, and President Bush signed the measure on Dec. 20.

In its announcement, the association said Washington, D.C. attorney Carlos Mateo Soldan of law firm Saul Ewing explained that the bill “provides for a straight-forward 6-month extension -- to June 30 -- of the ATPA” for Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

An additional extension to Dec. 31 of this year is part of the bill, but the association said the second extension could potentially apply only to Colombia and Peru, since Bolivia and Ecuador are both behind in locking down their free trade deals.

Association co-chair John-Campbell Barmmer stressed the importance of the Peruvian asparagus deal, saying in a statement that 2005 saw the U.S. import 54% of the total world supply of fresh-market asparagus.

“(Peruvian imports) assist in providing the United States with a steady, year-round supply of asparagus and (this) satisfies the increased demand for asparagus in the U.S. that domestic production just cannot meet,” said Barmmer.

The association said it plans to increase its output of articles, advertisements, trade show participation and other measures in 2007 to promote the benefits of fresh asparagus to U.S. consumers.