Cold weather has continued to delay the Peruvian asparagus crop, but volume “will start to increase dramatically over the next 10 days,” according to Fabian Sojos, imports manager for Boca Raton, FL-based Rosemont Farms, a C.H. Robinson company.
Speaking on Wednesday, Sept. 7, Mr. Sojos said that as a result of the lack of supplies, the asparagus market has been very strong for the past several weeks. A survey of the industry and a look at the U.S. Market News Service Report revealed that the market peaked at about $25 f.o.b. Miami per 11-pound carton as August turned into September. By Sept. 7, it was around $20-$21 with many expecting it to continue to drop a few more dollars per carton as the month proceeded and volume increased.
Mr. Sojos said that while supplies have been spotty, the quality of the asparagus has been excellent. “Since the new fumigation protocol went into effect about a month ago, the quality has been great. Sizing and weight have not been an issue.”
Prior to early August, Peruvian asparagus was operating under Section 18 status as dictated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which resulted in more-lengthy fumigation procedures. The protocol has since been tightened, which in turn results in less stress on the grass and better product for consumers.
While the deal has gotten off to a slow start, that is fairly typical during this winter time in Peru, when the weather is often cold and always unpredictable.
“We reasonably estimate that harvests of asparagus will be similar to last year with only a modest increase in harvests projected from Peru,” said Mr. Sojos. “The total volume to the U.S. market is estimated to remain around 17 million packages in 2011.”
And though the weather has been cold, he said that it pales in comparison to 2010, which saw the coldest winter on record in Peru. That greatly impacted supplies on the front end of the deal.
Mr. Sojos said that another limiting factor affecting supplies sent to the United States is the low exchange rate against the Peruvian currency. “A higher percentage of Peruvian asparagus is being shipped to alternative markets throughout the world as growers keep facing unfavorable exchange rates, with the U.S. dollar continuing to weaken,” he said.
The Rosemont executive said that retail support for Peruvian asparagus remains very strong. “Retailers understand that Peruvian asparagus represents 48 percent of all fresh asparagus consumed in the U.S., and they do an excellent job promoting the product,” he said. “It’s up to the importers to help improve retailer’s promotional activities by providing them with timely information, product opportunities and delivery commitments so they can create timely advertising. We cannot expect retailers to consistently promote asparagus on short notice. Even when many retailers have shown a willingness and capacity to react very quickly when given the opportunity to move additional volume, at some point they will say no.”
Since 2009, Rosemont Farms has been a part of C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., a global provider of multimodal logistics services, fresh produce sourcing and information services. Mr. Sojos said, “This has been an exciting change for us and our customers, who continue to experience value beyond price. Being part of C.H. Robinson has expanded our sales network and improved our transportation and logistics capabilities.”