USDA Situation and Outlook Report

Production decline and widening trade gap hinder availability

Domestic fresh vegetable utilized production fell 10 percent in 2018 from the previous year, while processed-vegetable utilized production was up over 7 percent from 2017 levels. Crop yields were hindered by unfavorable weather conditions, but reduced area in large part contributed to lower 2018 production. Above-average temperatures blanketed most vegetable growing areas during 2018 as yields of major vegetable crops declined from the previous year.

Export volumes fell for total vegetables, but rose slightly for fresh vegetables in 2018, while import levels rose in both the fresh and processed markets. Higher production and stronger imports helped boost per capita availability for processed vegetables. Imports of all vegetables (excluding potatoes) so far in 2019 are below previous years. Exports of fresh vegetables and potatoes seem poised to surpass 2018 levels, while exports of processed vegetables remain depressed.

The United States produced 120.7 billion pounds of commercial vegetables (including mushrooms and potatoes) during 2018, down almost 2 percent from 2017, with a value of over $17.5 billion and harvested area of about 3.8 million acres. The three leading crops, including fresh and processed, were potatoes (45 billion pounds), tomatoes (28 billion pounds), and lettuce (8 billion pounds), which combined accounted for 68 percent of total fresh and processed production volume.

Production value fell 12 percent from a year earlier due to lower production volumes and falling prices for most fresh-market vegetables. California leads the country in total vegetable output, accounting for 60 percent of total annual utilized production of all vegetables in the United States.

All-tomatoes, head lettuce, and romaine lettuce claimed the highest values of utilized production in 2018, generating $1.9 billion, $1.2 billion, and $0.9 billion of farm value, respectively. The value of tomatoes increased over 10 percent in 2018 despite a declining price level. Head and romaine lettuce values declined by 31 and 45 percent respectively in 2018 amid two foodborne illness outbreaks during the first and second half of the year. The farm value of total U.S. utilized production fell 12 percent to $12.9 billion in 2018 due to lower production and prices for numerous fresh and processed vegetables.

California claimed the top State position for total value of vegetable utilized production during 2018, which declined from the previous year despite a 4-percent volume increase.

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