Glut of Mexican asparagus depresses the market

02/27/2014 06:00:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

California asparagusCourtesy California Asparagus CommissionFaced with higher labor costs than counterparts in Mexico, California asparagus grower-shippers say they need a higher price just to break even. Large volumes of Mexican asparagus have driven market prices so low that some California asparagus growers are disking their fields to delay the start of the season rather than picking.

James Paul, director of sales and marketing for Stockton, Calif.-based Greg Paul Produce Sales Inc., blamed the depressed prices on a glut of asparagus coming out of Mexico’s Caborca region. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Feb. 24 reported 2,108 40,000-pound units of asparagus have crossed at Calexico, Calif., compared to 1,255 40,000-pound units last year at the same time.

Growers in that Caborca, who typically begin picking about mid-January, tried to hold off production on the front end so they could capitalize on this year’s late Easter season, he said.

“But they weren’t really successful,” Paul said, adding they only delayed production by about 10 days.

“It seemed to have brought all of the production on at the exact time, so it really doubled it up. We saw a record amount of production coming in from Mexico.”

Based on current shipments, Paul said he would expect the large Mexican volumes to continue until March 10-15, then begin to taper.

Don Alford, sales manager for Altar Produce LLC, Calexico, said January temperatures brought the crop on early and strong.

“The weather’s been perfect — everything’s been pulled forward, and we’re getting record production because of it,” he said.

But Alford described the scenario as a “good thing/bad thing,” since the early start also will mean an early end to the deal out of Caborca. As a result, some grower-shippers may not have the volume for the lucrative Easter holiday, which is late this year.

With the high volume also has come lower prices, which Alford described as “ugly.”

Because of long-term arrangements and contracts with buyers, Alford said Altar Produce isn’t as susceptible to market price swings as some grower-shippers.

“Our position’s a little different, but it’s been a tough season so far, that’s for sure,” he said.

With prices so depressed, Paul said more Mexican volume is coming into warehouses each day than is being shipped.

“When the market is this poor, none of the product is fresh,” he said. “They’re not selling product today that was harvested yesterday. They’re selling the product that was harvested last week.”

The USDA on Feb. 24 reported 11-pound carton/crates of jumbo Mexican asparagus, crossing the border at Calexico, Calif., and San Luis, Ariz., were $9.75 for jumbos and $11.75 for large. A year ago, those cartons sold for $26.75 for for large and standard; in 2012, 11-pound carton/crates of Mexican asparagus were $14.75 for large and standard.

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usa  |  February, 28, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Glut of Mexican ......depresses the market. You can fill in just about anything. Asparagus...tomatoes....take your pick.

Sidney Robinson    
Redland, Fl 33031  |  February, 28, 2014 at 01:43 PM

We would love to get some of those California grown asparagus here in South Fla mkts. (Please don't disk your fields) Would love to trade with hundreds of bushels of Fla grown (large) avocados in July & August.......

Leaf Grower    
Central Coast  |  March, 01, 2014 at 09:27 AM

That's right Eric. Mexican imports depress everything, tariffs are the answer to the importing of cheap produce in the U.S. I know a Mexican grower is looking at this and getting mad but hey, I know business is business but there is a balance between business and patriotism here in the U.S. not a free for all like how it is in other counties.

SJ Valley  |  March, 01, 2014 at 11:47 AM

And my local super?market is pricing it @ @$1.99/lb !!!!! If they would tag it at $.79-$.99, much would be bought, consumed and put in home freezers - the glut would be over - all would benefit.

Pasco  |  March, 01, 2014 at 02:27 PM

Someone is going to take it in the shorts at that price. Feb. 24th price of 11# Lg. was 1.06/lb at the border. There is tough chance that USA cost are going to compete with that

usa  |  March, 03, 2014 at 03:03 PM

Don't expect retailers to help, it makes way too much sense. When there's blood in the water the retailers start to circle, and gain higher profits with lower commodity costs. Retailers do not care about ending gluts?

CA  |  March, 03, 2014 at 06:35 PM

NAFTA was supposed to even the playing field. How is it even when my labor cost is $12.50/hour & Mexican growers pay $7.00 per day?

March, 04, 2014 at 01:50 PM


Mexican Grower    
Caborca, Mexico  |  March, 05, 2014 at 08:20 PM

That is how free markets work. They make the economy more efficient. And although it may sometimes mean that some businesses are going to be strongly affected, at the end, it has a positive impact in the overall U.S economy.

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