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.