Mexican asparagus grower and shipper, Altar Produce, with its headquarters that overlooks the US-Mexico border in Calexico California, declare they are here to stay despite tough times that have hit the global market. According to Rocio Aguilar, Altar Produce Manager Export Sales for Europe and Australia: “We will see out the difficult times, continue to invest and be the asparagus supplier of choice in the US and Canada.”

Rocio Aguilar and Genesis Martinez from Altar Produce showing their organica and conventional asparagus.

“When Covid hit us, everyone was happy and there was a huge demand in the short term. Christmas and New Year’s historical records were surpassed, we experienced panic shopping, people bought whatever was available on the shelves. As fast as the curve went up, it suddenly dropped. What we are facing now is due to a combination of factors that made a perfect storm.

"We face a global economic crisis recession, higher energy costs, elevated gas prices with the Russia Ukraine conflict that impacted every single pocket of the world creating an unfavourable exchange rate, instability all over the world, definitely a domino effect which is very hard to read and very hard to fight.

"Also, our money value is less. People do conscious shopping with asparagus seen as expensive while the trend is that people are looking for products with longer shelf life. We have seen that even niche markets are changing, it is now dependent on price and cost instead of quality. As growers we face the most difficult situation in the history, for us the volume is non-stop, because the acreage is there. We have to keep the volume coming in a steady way and we have to generate demand.

"We understand that offering an effective price will be key for that purpose. This has to be done while on the operational side costs have increased, exports are becoming more expensive. We need to find a solution and be creative to allocate all the volume. It is concerning. Demand dropped, maybe by 20%, the remaining business is under a lot of pressure to have lower average prices. It’s going to be a tough two more years to come,” explains Aguilar.

Altar Produce, is a family owned company that is vertically integrated. Not only do they own their own fields, they also own the freight company that transports the asparagus and other produce from Mexico to the US. The company's volume represents about 50% of the total asparagus volume from Mexico during the January-March period. They are organic and conventional asparagus producers.

“We control our logistics, for 100% of the land logistics of our entire volume that comes across the border. That’s an advantage, especially during this costing and economic crises the key is to have control of logistics. Altar manages 13 000 hectares of asparagus, grown in different regions across Mexico to supply our key markets of the US and Canada all year round. We also supply year-round to certain export markets such as Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom.

"However, 60% of our main season supply is from January to March, we have less availability during the rest of the year. As we understand Peru’s main season to the US comes from June to December, we are concentrating our efforts to complement our supply base with Peruvian asparagus during that specific period.

"We focus our efforts to supply to retail business both in the US and our main export markets, there is less risk involved when it comes to Mexican product because within a six hour drive our trucks reach our natural market of the US and within 24-48 hours our asparagus reaches any destination overseas. Our location is our advantage,” states Aguilar.

Part of the Altar Produce response to the changing and challenging market landscape is to plant new crops such as bell peppers. They have also planted about 50 hectares of dates. “We have run trials of blueberries, baby broccoli and other products. We have the distribution channels, our aim is to concentrate more as a service provider to give our customers more options. There are big players on both, but the growing conditions we have are unique and special, while our focus is to be quality oriented. We’ll see how it turns out in a couple of years.”

Aguilar says for the last 15 years Mexico has focused on becoming a formal and bigger player when it comes to the global asparagus market. “We have come to stay and be present, continue to grow to become a solid option when it comes to asparagus, we understand our weaknesses, but we also enhance our strengths. For sure, these will be difficult years and with a long way to go, strong efforts will be required, but precisely difficult times will strengthen us,” Aguilar concludes.

For more information:
Rocio Aguilar
Altar Produce
Tel: +1 760 427 4595