Growing consumer demand for fresh asparagus, combined with year-around availability through global marketing channels is painting a future for Michigan’s asparagus growers and processors, as canned and frozen asparagus volumes continue to trend downward.
According to Michigan Farm Bureau Horticulture and Industry Relations Specialist Kevin Robson, the state’s producers are transitioning more and more production from the 8,500 – 9,000 acres of the highly-sought crop from processed to fresh market channels.
The trend is obvious on a national scale as well, said Robson. Fresh-market production, estimated at 603,800,000 pounds for 2018, is up 16 percent from 2017. Meanwhile, processed production, was down 3 percent from last year.
“Each year, growers are typically transitioning fields and tonnage over to the fresh market, where there is more demand, and better returns,” Robson said. “Our growers, when compared to domestic and foreign competitors, separate themselves, for being laser focused on quality.”
That reputation for high-quality bodes well for both fresh-market and processors, according to Robson. He said technical growing expertise of Michigan producers, coupled with the state’s unique soil and weather conditions, provide the high quality spear to both the fresh and processing markets.
“The processing market, which handles about 40 percent of Michigan’s production, is still a very critical component of our asparagus industry,” Robson said. “Having two different markets for the same crop is something unique for Michigan.
“If the crop suffers during harvest season because of adverse weather conditions, our growers have the ability to still harvest divert that production to provide product for frozen, cuts & tips, and spear pack. Other production regions around the globe don’t have that luxury,” he said.
Although Michigan’s 2018 asparagus production was down slightly from 2017 by an estimated 2 percent due to 500 less acres of production, growers still harvested approximately 238,000,000 pounds of product. Robson says overall yield was up by 100 pounds per acre, putting the average at 2,800 pounds per acre. Total value of Michigan’s asparagus production was $20.8 million, up slightly from 2017.
“Michigan’s asparagus industry continues to be a staple part of Michigan’s food basket and ag economy, particularly in the West Central region of the state,” said Robson, with 80 percent of the state’s production focused in Oceana and Mason Counties, with the remaining 20 percent scattered throughout the western Michigan.
Overall, U.S. asparagus production in 2018 was up 13 percent from 2017, with growers harvesting an estimated 756,500,000 pounds, even though harvested acres were down 11 percent, at an estimated 20,700 acres.
“When you do the math, Michigan should be proud -- we’re home to 41 percent of the total acres under cultivation, and our growers harvested 31.5 percent of the total national asparagus production in 2018,” Robson said.