Europe plays a crucial role in Peru’s asparagus deal, shippers say.

“Europe is a big player in the Peruvian asparagus season,” said Julia Inestroza, marketing director for Los Angeles-based Gourmet Trading Co.

The reason? Different preferences, Inestroza said.

“They generally pull the larger sizes that the domestic retail market is not too fond of,” she said.

Don Hessel, general manager of the asparagus program with Los Angeles-based Progressive Produce Corp., said Europe imports a lotof Peru’s asparagus.

“I think the U.S. is still taking more product than Europe, but Europe takes a lot,” Hessel said. “I know they’re looking for new markets. They’re going to Asia, Australia and New Zealand and looking for more alternatives for the product.

Those alternatives make for a healthy Peruvian asparagus industry, said Jeff Friedman, president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Carb Americas Inc.

“As an industry, Peru is growing less, exporting less to the U.S.,” he said. “They don’t have to come here anymore. They’ve found other avenues. They can go to Europe and the Pacific Rim now.

“Europe is going to play a major role since our dollar is very weak. These growers are able to make more money going f.o.b. to Lima and going elsewhere. The main advantage coming to the U.S. is we can move volume here.”