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Alan Schreiber, administrator of the Washington Asparagus Commission, is projecting increased asparagus tonnage for the 2010 season. "We are cautiously optimistic," he told The Produce News March 31. "We will have an early season."

The 2009 production season was marked by prolonged periods of cold, resulting in a shortened season.

Warmer weather patterns during 2010 are anticipated to result in a harvest beginning as many as 14 days ahead of normal timetables. Initial volumes were expected to be harvested in early April. Mr. Schreiber said that the 2010 season will wind down by late June, a typical end time for the asparagus season in Washington.

Mr. Schreiber estimated that Washington asparagus producers would harvest approximately 27 million pounds of asparagus this season, up from 24 million pounds produced during the 2009 season. "Our acreage is slightly down," he stated. "But this is the smallest acreage reduction in recent years." He continued, "Our growers are upbeat. Some handlers are reporting more demand than they've seen [in recent years]. The early demand for product is high."

Washington's minimum wage did not increase in 2010, and labor pools will be adequate to bring in the crop, he stated. Increased transportation crops are expected to affect the volume of imported asparagus this season, thereby giving domestic production a competitive edge.

(For more on Northwest spring and summer produce, see the April 12, 2010, issue of The Produce News.)