California asparagus sees late start but a quality boost following rains

From Fresh Plaza | 30 March 2023

Overview of asparagus from California in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on March 30, 2023. 

The domestic organic asparagus season is just starting, albeit three weeks late. “We’re doing our first cuttings now with Coastal View Produce in Gonzalez, California, an Earl’s Organic exclusive. We probably won’t look to have any real production until right after Easter. It’s a slow ramp-up of the domestic deal,” says Ethan Abendroth, senior buyer for Earl’s Organic Produce.

While the recent California rains contributed to the later start to the season, it has helped with quality. “The fields fared really well with the storms because there’s good drainage,” says Abendroth. “As opposed to the last few years, these crowns have gotten an incredible amount of deep soil penetration with the water so they are raring to go.”

After California, production moves north throughout the U.S. to the Washington-Oregon regions and then spreads East as spring moves along.

Meanwhile, there continues to be ample organic, strong quality-asparagus out of Mexico and that should stay that way until May.

Spring demand bumps

As for demand, it’s on par with where demand for asparagus has been historically, even with the rains and snowstorms seen throughout the country. At the same time, demand will see a bump in two upcoming notable spring holidays–Easter and Mother’s Day.

asparagus prices by hist 1

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Where does all this leave pricing? “We’re looking at two drastically different price points with domestic commanding a bit more of a premium which has to do with the cost of resources,” says Abendroth. “Over the years California’s asparagus deal has slowly shrunk as it’s had trouble competing with the economic forces of product coming up from Mexico. It’s a struggling industry for California and here it’s down to two major deals now.”

That puts Mexican organic asparagus in the mid-teen FOBs. “In past years in the same space, the market has been a bit more robust with boxes moving around without a price on them hoping to find a home. We haven’t seen that this year,” says Abendroth.

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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