Some California asparagus will get an intentionally late start this year for spring production.
Craig Rolandelli of San Ramon, Ca.-based Jacobs, Malcolm & Burtt (JMB), who he says is the largest shipper of California asparagus with 768 acres, is starting its California conventional and organic asparagus production around March 20th. “There’ll be plenty of supplies of California asparagus—promotable volumes of California asparagus available and the crop should be about the same as last year,” he says. “It is starting later than last year. We’ve forced the harvest to be later by several weeks to get closer to starting at Easter. We’ve had some cool weather in California and a lack of rain so it’s all helped us hold off the harvest.”
He's anticipating good demand for California asparagus noting Jacobs, Malcolm & Burtt has already signed on with several retailers who are going to promote local California asparagus starting with the Easter pull and through Mother’s Day. Overall demand throughout the year has been weak on asparagus though thanks to the lack of foodservice business, adds Rolandelli.
Competing with Mexico
California comes into the marketplace just as Mexico is deep into production with what’s believed to be a larger than usual crop, particularly on organic asparagus.
“And so, there are challenges with market pricing right now given Mexican pricing,” Rolandelli says. “Pricing has been down but it wasn’t down significantly until February this year when the oversupply of Mexican asparagus started and there wasn’t enough demand for it.”
Rolandelli believes pricing on asparagus should stabilize after Easter as Mexican asparagus production naturally drops off. “That’s about the same time that supplies dropped off out of Mexico and pricing stabilized last year and the reason we pushed the California asparagus harvest to be a few weeks later this year,” he adds.