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Peru maintains position in world asparagus market

In 2016, Peru represented 40 percent of the world’s supply of asparagus and about 43 percent of the total U.S. import dollar value. These numbers have remained fairly consistent over the past five years, though typical market fluctuations have occurred.

Peru continues to maintain fairly steady supplies of product into the United States the entire year, reaching a low point in the February-March time frame and typically peaking during the last three months of the year.

From May through December in 2016, Peru’s asparagus imports were greater than 10 million pounds a month, topping the 20 million mark for the final four months, with December getting close to 30 million pounds.

Conversely, Mexico has dramatic shifts with February and March close to 70 million pounds each month and its supplies dwindling to 10 million pounds or fewer the last four months of the year.

Priscilla Lleras-Bush of the Peruvian Asparagus Importers Association said that per-capita consumption of asparagus in the United States rose in 2016 to about 1.8 pounds per person. That matched 2014 as the highest consumption in the past five years. The low water mark was 2013 at 1.6 pounds per person. Both 2012 and 2015 checked in at 1.7 pounds per capita.

A deeper dive by PAIA into the consumption figures shows that about one-third of shoppers purchased fresh asparagus within the past 12 months. Based on age, about 34-35 percent of shoppers older than 40 purchases asparagus, while shoppers in the 18-39 category lag behind with 26 percent of that group likely to purchase asparagus.

Women are the primary buyers but the biggest predictor of whether a shopper will purchase asparagus is income. As one’s income rises, so does the likelihood that an asparagus bunch will make it into their shopping cart. If household income is less than $25,000, only 18 percent of these shoppers are likely to purchase. With household income in the $25,000-$50,000, likelihood jumps to 27 percent; at $50,000 to $100,000, it climbs to 38 percent. And for households where the income level is above $100,000, a robust 44 percent of consumers purchase asparagus.

Another interesting fact is that geographic location in the United States plays a role in the likelihood of an asparagus purchase. For the past six years, shoppers in the West have been the most likely in five of those six years with the numbers ranging from 40 percent to 50 percent. The Northeast is second followed by the Midwest with the South trailing behind.

PAIA also noted that in 2016 the United States imported almost 475 million pounds of fresh asparagus, which put it in a virtual tie with 2014 for most asparagus imported in the past five years.