Shipping Woes, Weather Foes Mean Higher Prices And Smiles For Northwest Asparagus Farmers

File photo. Asparagus
Northwest asparagus farmers have taken some hits in recent years. But the growing and price winds are in their favor this season. Courtesy of Lisel Zappler

Listen

With spring warming up, Northwest asparagus spears have started to breach the sandy earth at a swift clip.

For the last decade, the Northwest asparagus industry has been challenged by lower-cost imports, labor shortages and increased farming costs. But this year, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the foreign asparagus supply,  increasing sales for the Northwest’s crop. 

Air travel is down, meaning there aren’t as many plane bellies to fill with Peruvian asparagus. Mexican imports are down, too. And cold weather is hurting the crop in Michigan and eastern Canada. 

Alan Schreiber leads the Washington Asparagus Commission. He says the tighter market is a little more expensive for consumers, but good news for Washington farmers. 

“Generally asparagus supplies are tight throughout the United States,” he said. “Even right here in the Tri-Cities, Yakima Valley and Yakima, which is the heart of asparagus country.”

At some grocery stores in the Tri-Cities there are signs for customers to only take as many as two bundles per shopping trip. 

A standard 28-pound crate of U.S. asparagus usually goes for $50. Right now it’s $62. It’s healing for an industry that could use the boost. 

“For once, it looks like Washington asparagus growers are going to have a good season,” Schreiber said.

Related Stories:

These blueberries, grown in Oregon, were for sale in a Northwest grocery story that's a national chain on Sept. 29, 2020. CREDIT: Scott Leadingham / NWPB

How Imports Are Squeezing The Big U.S. (And Northwest) Blueberry Business

“Now basically, we have Mexican fruit coming in from March all the way to June. We start getting Peruvian fruit come August,” says Rob Dhaliwal, a blueberry grower from Lynden, Washington. “Even in July. Then we start getting fruit from British Columbia. So there is a good 10 months of foreign product coming into the country.” Continue Reading How Imports Are Squeezing The Big U.S. (And Northwest) Blueberry Business

Golden wheat got a recent crew cut outside of Walla Walla, Washington. Experts say the 2020 Washington and Oregon crops look about average, saved by late-spring rains.

Late Spring Rains Save Northwest Wheat Crop Yields, But Price Still Down

The latest harvest estimates say Washington ranchers will harvest nearly 153 million bushels of wheat and Oregon 44 million bushels. That’s around average for both states. A typical barge holds around 122,500 bushels of wheat — meaning 44 million bushels would be about 360 barges full of grain on the Snake and Columbia Rivers heading toward export terminals. Continue Reading Late Spring Rains Save Northwest Wheat Crop Yields, But Price Still Down