(Sept. 10) Shippers expect heavy volumes ahead for the Peruvian asparagus deal, which has emerged from an early lull in production.

“In the last two weeks, volumes have really grown,” said John Barmmer, director of marketing for Bounty Fresh LLC, Miami, on Sept. 9.

The surge in production caused $17-18 markets for 11-pound boxes to drop down to the $13-14 level, he said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the following Sept. 9 f.o.b.s for 11-pound cartons of bunched asparagus from south Florida: green jumbo: $13-15, extra-large $12-13, large $13-14, standard $13-13.50 and small $11.

The same time last year, the USDA reported the following f.o.b.s: jumbo $16, extra-large $14, large $14-15, standard $15 and small $14.

Eric Crawford, president of Produce-ing Results International, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said he expects heavy volumes until January.

In the meantime, the shipping industry will have to weather October, when Peruvian asparagus competes with simultaneous production from Chile, Argentina, Ecuador and Mexico, he said.

“Usually, October isn’t a very fun month to look at,” said Brian Miller, salesman for importer Gourmet Trading Co., Los Angeles. Production should get under way the first or second week of October in Constitucion in southern Baja California, he said.

Weather had delayed initial Peruvian production, then brought it back on track, Barmmer said. He said he expects the heavier volumes to last at least two or three weeks more.

“So hopefully, retailers will get behind us with ads and get movement going,” he said. As always, when the asparagus volumes were short, the commodity didn’t get much display space. Now that there are plenty of supplies, Barmmer said he hoped that will change.

Sizing for the Peruvian asparagus has been leaning toward standard and small, Barmmer said. Volumes have been limited for extra-large and jumbo asparagus, he said, which is good because retailers tend to shy from the larger sizing, which goes more to foodservice business.

Crawford saw a similar trend, with retailers requesting standard and small in recent years. He said he didn’t understand, noting that small asparagus dehydrates at a much quicker rate.

“If I were a retailer, I would probably stick with large,” Crawford said. Most of the asparagus the open market in early September was large, he said.

Barmmer said the industry hasn’t run into any problems with freight so far this season. Airspace could tighten up as the holidays approach, Crawford said. Asparagus also will have to compete with South American commodities, such as Chilean salmon, that pay more per kilo for freight than asparagus, he said.

In the short term, Barmmer said Peruvian asparagus shipments have faced some challenges upon arrival to the U.S. Because the increase in supplies came so quickly, volumes have tended to bottleneck at Miami as the asparagus is fumigated for pest control, he said.

Barmmer said production from central Mexico, where it’s been hot and dry, was past its peak. Excessive heat has hurt quality, he said.

Miller said most of the asparagus from central Mexico, which should wrap up production by late September, was going to the Texas market.

He said he expected Chile to start toward late September in light volumes. The Chilean asparagus usually has excellent quality and can command a premium price over Peru, he said, but it doesn’t compare in terms in of volume.