The headline “Organic asparagus supplies extremely tight” is a bit misleading, as it would be more accurate to note that organic asparagus supplies are non-existent.
“This is a very difficult time to produce organic asparagus,” said Walter Yager, CEO of Alpine Fresh, on Tuesday, Sept. 5. “We are going to get started in about 10 days in northwest Mexico. I don’t know of any other commercial organic production at this time.”
Yager said Alpine Fresh’s fall organic asparagus deal is new this year, with production expected to begin early next month October along with a few other shippers also from northwest Mexico. All of those fields should be harvested by early to mid-November, which will cause at least another two-month gap in supplies.
“A lot of people are asking for organics so we made a big push in that direction this year. We had a spring crop from Mexico and now we are coming back with these deals. We are working toward having year-round supplies of organic asparagus but that’s probably three to five years away,” Yager said.
He explained that organic asparagus is difficult to grow, and Peruvian asparagus, which accounts for about 40 percent of the annual asparagus consumption in the U.S., must be fumigated when it get to the United States, rendering it as non-organic regardless of how it was grown.
“We’ve been working on creating another protocol (that doesn’t rely on fumigation) for 10 years,” Yager said, speaking of the U.S.-based Peruvian Asparagus Importers Association. “Hopefully, we will get something done in the next year or so.”
He said progress was beginning to be made with USDA and then the shift in presidential administrations saw movement grind to a halt. “Hopefully it will get started again soon,” Yager said.
Until then organic asparagus will be a seasonal crop with supplies stronger in the spring and for a short duration in the fall, which is about to start. Yager would not predict the market price but said it would be high and not unreasonable. He said the organic asparagus market operates independently of the conventional market but there is a limit as to what consumers will pay.