Asparagus Production and Trade in Selected Countries
|Fresh asparagus production in CY 2000 in 9 selected countries is estimated at 491,000 tons, up 6 percent from the previous year. Peru, the worlds top producer, accounted for 39 percent of the total, followed by the United States, Spain, and Mexico. Asparagus exports from 7 selected countries during this same period are estimated at a record 164,000 tons, up 6 percent from 1999. Mexico, exporting nearly 90 percent of its annual output, is expected to be the top exporter, with shipments totaling 55,000 tons. Peru and Greece are each expected to export 35,000 tons of fresh asparagus, up 17 percent, respectively, from the previous year. The United States continues to be Perus top market. Exports of fresh-market asparagus from the United States in 2000 are estimated at about 18,000 tons. During the first 6 months of 2000, U.S. exports of fresh-market asparagus totaled almost 16,000 tons valued at $45 million, up 5 percent in volume and 6 percent in value, from the same time last year. Peruvian exports of processed asparagus in 2000 are estimated at 72,000 tons, up 12 percent from 1999.|
Despite import pressure from foreign asparagus producers, the United States has become the worlds second largest producer of fresh asparagus, after Peru. In 2000, U.S. production of fresh asparagus is estimated at about 70,000 tons, up 7 percent from 1999 and 23 percent above 1998, due mainly to increased acreage and higher yields. In 1999, California, Washington, and Michigan accounted for approximately 97 percent of the fresh-market output in the United States, with the peak harvest occurring in the spring. During this same period, Michigan accounted for 36 percent of the total U.S. processing (canning and freezing) production. Other states producing smaller amounts of asparagus, mostly for processing, include New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, Indiana, Oregon, and Minnesota.
According to the Economic Research Service (ERS), consumption of fresh-market asparagus in the United States has been on an upswing for the past several years. Since 1996, per capita use has increased 53 percent to 0.9 pound per year. A combination of strong economic growth, improved off-season availability, increasing health awareness, and a desire to improve ones diet with at least 5 or more vegetables a day have likely helped boost asparagus demand.
From January to April 2000, the price of fresh-market asparagus averaged $121 per hundred weight, compared to $141 per hundred weight during the same period in 1999.
During the first 6 months of 2000, U.S. exports of fresh green asparagus totaled nearly 16,000 tons valued at $45 million, up 6 percent in volume from the same period in 1999. Shipments to Canada and Japan accounted for 82 percent of total exports. Exports to Taiwan (up 2,758 percent) and Mexico (up 3,927 percent) registered the biggest gains, while exports to Switzerland, the third largest U.S. market, declined 24 percent for the period.
During the same 6-month period in 2000, U.S. imports of fresh asparagus totaled 31,348 tons valued at $52 million, up 7 percent in volume from the same time in 1999. Increased demand and generally lower priced product from Mexico and Peru, as well as Guatemala were the primary reasons for this increase. Imports from Mexico and Peru accounted for 84 percent and 14 percent, respectively, with shipments from Guatemala remaining small.
Success Story - The
United States Market Access program (MAP)--which provides funds
to U.S. producers, exporters, and trade organizations, continues
to help boost sales of fresh-market asparagus to mainly Canada,
Japan and Switzerland. Japanese supermarkets imported Washington
asparagus for the first time, during Japans Golden Week (in
May), one of the countrys largest holidays. In the past,
reportedly, Japanese retailers have been reluctant to import U.S.
asparagus beyond the month of April, due to the competition it
creates for domestic producers when their crop is being harvested
Mexican fresh asparagus production in marketing year 2000 is estimated at 62,000 tons, up 20 percent from the revised volume in 1999. The increase volume is attributed to new plants reaching maturity, higher yields, and more producers having installed more efficient irrigation systems. Farmers, once were enticed to increase area planted to asparagus and utilize more efficient irrigation systems, are not currently happy with the relatively low prices and have decided to limit area planted to asparagus. The biggest asparagus crop in Mexico is harvested in Baja California and Sonora from late December through early April. A smaller crop is harvested from late June through September in the Bajio region of Guanajuato.
In marketing year (MY) 2000,
fresh asparagus exports from Mexico are estimated at 55,000 tons,
about the same as the previous year. Over 90 percent of
Mexicos total asparagus output is exported to the United
States, with the rest going to Japan and the European Union.
Mexicos winter exports to the United States peak from the
last week of December to January 31, when U.S. supplies are low.
Traditionally, prices are higher during this period, but the
recent entrance of Peruvian product into the U.S. winter time
window has put pressure on the international prices. In the past,
most of Perus asparagus output during this period was used
for processing, but more recently it has begun to go into the
Asparagus production in Peru continues to increase. Production in 2000 is estimated at 190,000 tons, up 9 percent from 1999, due mainly to an increase in area, crop maturation and producers interest in meeting export demand. Peru is one of the few countries where high quality asparagus is produced year round, due to warm and favorable weather, because asparagus plants do not enter a dormant stage. Peru produces asparagus for two different markets; green asparagus for the United States, and white asparagus for the European market. In an effort to increase production, many asparagus growers, especially in the northern areas, are planting at a very high density. As a result, growers are harvesting more, but the asparagus are thinner with less quality sizes. This product is usually transferred to the processing plants, with a larger portion of it being rejected by the plants because it does not meet the quality standards.
In 2000, fresh asparagus exports are estimated at 35,000 tons, up 17 percent from 1999, due mainly to increased international demand. The United States continues to be Perus best customer for fresh asparagus, accounting for about 75 percent of the market. The bulk of Perus asparagus exports are shipped to the United States by air. Reportedly, rising fuel costs for air transportation could lower exports of fresh and divert product to the frozen industry. During this same period, Perus exports of processed asparagus are expected to reach 72,000 tons, up 12 percent from 1999. This increase is mainly due to a recovery after a production fall caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon.
In late June, an 11-pound carton
of large Peruvian fresh asparagus commanded a US$20 (f.o.b.)
price in South Florida, while Mexican fresh-market asparagus
brought US$14 to US$15 (f.o.b.), and Colombian and Guatemalan
product sold for US$16 to $22 per carton.
Production of fresh asparagus in Greece in 2000 is estimated at 38,500 tons, up 12 percent from 1999, due primarily to an increase in acreage. Greek asparagus output consists of both white and green and is harvested early in February to mid-May, allowing it to be marketed earlier than product grown elsewhere in Europe. In Greece, asparagus usually produces 12 to 13 years before replanting. In 1999, approximately 7,400 hectares were planted to asparagus with approximately 4,000 hectares at the age that needs to be replaced by new plants, most of which will be with the green asparagus variety. Production of asparagus in Greece is highly labor intensive during harvest, employing foreigners at a cost of about US$18.00 per day. All other field practices are mechanized.
Domestic consumption of asparagus in Greece is limited, fluctuating between 6 and 7 percent of the annual output.
Over 70 percent of Greek asparagus production is exported to Germany, with smaller amounts going to France, Spain and the Netherlands. Spain also buys second quality product, mainly for canning. Export prices in 1999 fluctuated between US$4.92 to $6.57 per kilogram c&f Munich for early season crop, and between US$3.55 to $4.38 per kilogram for late season crop. Shipping costs by truck are US$0.36 per kilogram, compared to US$1.05 to $1.21 per kilogram by air. Greek fresh asparagus is packed in 6-kilogram boxes. In Greece, there are a number of problems in the packaging and marketing of asparagus, reportedly, that need to be resolved (including uniformity of product size when packed, appearance, effective promotions, etc.), in order for the product to gain market share in Europe. At present, Greeces main competitors in the European markets are France, Spain, and Holland.
On the policy side, Greek farmers
use the EU Regulation No. 2328/90, which provides subsidy
supports (cultivation supports) for purchasing machinery and crop
installation (soil improvements and genetics). These supports
fluctuate according to geography from 40 to 50 percent of the
total investment. Also EU Regulation No. 866/90 provides funding
for up to 45 to 50 percent for processing and packing plants.
Asparagus is considered to among the best alternatives for Greek
farmers who utilized land resources for less marketable crops
under the CAP.
Asparagus production in the United Kingdom remains small. In CY 2000, output is estimated at 1,791 tons, down 9 percent from 1999, due mostly to a drop in planted acreage. Green asparagus represents the major part of the United Kingdom.s asparagus production. The principle growing areas are Scotland, Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Cornwall and Kent. To meet consumers and food service demands, planting of purple and white asparagus varietals remains popular with growers.
Consumption of asparagus in the United Kingdom has in recent years resulted in a move away from traditional bundles of non-trimmed spears to trimmed spears and tips, both in bundles and pre-packs. This trend was seen through 1999 and has continued into 2000. Pre-packs of baby varietals, supplied predominantly by Peru, Thailand and Chile, are available year-round at retail outlets.
In CY 2000, fresh asparagus imports are estimated at 3,650 tons, up 4 percent from the previous year, because of a shortfall in domestic supply.
All product marketed in the
United Kingdom is subject to compliance with EU quality
standards, pesticides and plant health legislation. Imports from
the United States are subject to the full duty rate of 11.2
percent, down from 12.1 percent, under tariff code 0709200010.
Production of asparagus in Spain in 2000 is estimated at 66,500 tons, up slightly from 1999. Asparagus harvesting in Spain begins in mid-January for the extra early varieties in Andalucia, and ends in August in the northern producing regions.
Spains consumption of asparagus increased substantially during the early 1990's, but has stabilized over the past few years. Fresh consumption is estimated at 34,500 tons this year, up slightly from 1999. Most Spanish consumers prefer fresh green asparagus for daily cooking and canned white asparagus for special occasions and for salads.
In 2000, Spanish exports of fresh
asparagus are estimated at 20,000 tons, about the same as the
previous year. The EU countries are the primary market for fresh
exports. Spanish imports of fresh asparagus remain small, with
imports taking place mostly during the off-season months between
October and January. Peru, Greece and Morocco are the primary
suppliers of fresh asparagus to Spain.
Production of fresh asparagus in Japan in CY 2000 is estimated at 24,730 tons, up 25 percent from 1999, but down 1 percent from 1998, due mainly to an increase in planted area and crop maturation. The competitiveness of Japans domestic production is expected to decline in the near future, due to the aging farm population in Japan and high labor costs. Many of Japans asparagus fields are becoming aged with no major replanting of new plants going on. However, with sufficient volumes of fresh asparagus available in the United States through June, a decline in Japans asparagus production could represent a growth opportunity for U.S. asparagus growers and exporters.
The overall market for fresh asparagus in Japan has been fairly stable in recent years, with an annual disappearance ranging between 42,000 and 46,000 tons, which are shared evenly between domestically produced asparagus and imported product. Fresh asparagus is marketed year-round in Japan with a number of foreign suppliers participating in the market. Mexican asparagus dominates the market from January to March; U.S. volume peaks from March through May, while volumes of domestic asparagus are heaviest in May and June. Asparagus from Australia is available in the fall and winter, while the Philippines ships asparagus to Japan almost year-round. In value terms, Japans imports typically reach over US$100 million c.i.f. annually, with the United States accounting for about 20 percent of the value.
Although the Japanese fresh asparagus market is mature, there are still marketing opportunities for U.S. growers to expand sales, particularly in May and June. While U.S. sales have grown during the months of April and May, Mexico has become a major competitor to early-season shipments from the United States. Peak shipments of Mexican asparagus take place in February and, in recent years, through the month of March, a month once dominated by U.S. product. Continued growth in demand for Mexican asparagus is expected as Japans major fresh produce importers are working cooperatively with Mexican growers to produce and package asparagus for the Japanese market. The fine grading and packaging exclusively for Japanese supermarkets have gained a good reputation among Japanese retailers.
California asparagus is currently
traded at US$55.04 to US$64.22 for a 6-kilogram container (air
shipped) at Tokyos Ohta wholesale market. Mexican asparagus
is also traded at a similar price to California asparagus, while
Philippines asparagus is traded for US$27.52 per 8-kilogram
container (shipped by boat).
Production of asparagus in
Switzerland remains small, accounting for about 2 percent of
domestic consumption annually. Switzerland continues to be a very
good market for U.S. fresh asparagus because of the Swiss
preference for large-stalked asparagus. During the first 6-months
of 2000, U.S. exports of fresh green asparagus to Switzerland
totaled almost 1,600 tons, down 25 percent from the year earlier
due to stronger competition from other EU producers and a
tariff-rate quota system. Under this system imports from May 1 to
June 15 are currently subject to a maximum duty of SF 734 per 100
Germany is a major producer and consumer of fresh asparagus. In 1999, German imports of fresh asparagus totaled 40,213 tons, down 8 percent from 1998. Greece remains by far the most important supplier of fresh asparagus to Germany, accounting for 53 percent of total imports in 1999. U.S. exports of fresh green asparagus to Germany remain small, but have more than doubled to 278 tons in 1999 compared to the previous year. According to the U.S. Agricultural Attache, the German asparagus market offers potential growth for U.S. fresh green asparagus.
(The FAS Attache Report search engine contains reports on the Asparagus industries for 7 countries, including Mexico, Peru, United Kingdom, Greece and others. For information on production and trade, contact Emanuel McNeil at 202-720-2083. For information on marketing contact Elizabeth Mello at 202-720-9903.)