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Altar Produce planning ahead

Calexico, CA-based Altar Produce, the marketer for the largest group of asparagus producers in Mexico, is as busy as ever when it comes to the Peruvian asparagus market.

“The quality has been excellent this year throughout our numerous regions,” Chris Ramirez, president of the company, told The Produce News.

“Our Central Mexico experience this year has been great due to a big investment on a new shed with top-notch cooling equipment from our partner. Peru has been pretty solid with few weak arrivals but mostly due to carrier issues and mostly on-boat product,” he said.

Currently, the company does business of 1.5 million 11-pound boxes a year, with a goal to reach 2 million boxes of sales by the end of 2016. That number could grow even higher next year.

Altar-1Asparagus from Altar Produce.“We’ll have full 24,500 acres of asparagus production for 2017,” Ramirez said. “We work thru various sheds in Peru. We have physical presence in Lima, to manage exports as well as various contracts with our growers.”

Other noteworthy news from Altar Produce includes its new processing shed in San Luis, Mexico for value added and wet vegetables; an organic Asparagus program during the Caborca season; and the company doubling its green onion production the last two years. It’s also added a new sales office in San Diego and has included Brussels sprouts and broccoli to its product list.

“Staying ahead of the times and understanding the market fluctuations along with customer needs is the secret for staying ahead in this business,” Ramirez said. “Our focus on quality is a must, so it’s very important to work with growers who pay attention to their fields.”

Altar Produce has been growing Peruvian asparagus since 1955, and it represents 90 percent of its total business.

“Our love and passion is the field and we hope our end consumers can see the difference in the quality we provide,” Ramirez said. “We like to think of it as the Altar difference.”

During the season, the company has more than 10,000 employees in Mexico, with 36 employees in the United States helping out.

A big trend to keep an eye on, Ramirez said, is organics, although due to challenges in organic asparagus, the availability is limited. That will hopefully change in the years ahead.