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Vegetables and pulses outlook: April 2024

U.S. vegetable sales soar by 82 percent amid declines in harvest area and farms

According to the recently released Census of Agriculture, 69,452 farms reported the harvest of vegetables (including melons and potatoes, excluding mushrooms and dry pulses) in 2022—a 6.5 percent decrease from the 2017 Census. Area harvested declined 1.4 percent to 4.3 million acres, with only 39 percent of the total in crops destined for processing (canning, freezing, and dehydration). Despite the drop in total vegetable farms and processing farm acres, from 2017 to 2022 real (inflation-adjusted) sales of vegetables (including seeds and transplants) per operation increased by 82 percent from about $280,000 to over $500,000 (in 2012 dollars). Real sales per operation increased steadily since the 2002 Census.

Industry overview
Per capita availability reflects the quantity available for consumption in the United States per person. It is often used to assess relative changes in the available consumption of agricultural products over time and among commodities, while controlling for changes in the population size.

Fresh vegetables: USDA, ERS preliminary per capita availability of fresh market vegetables for 2023 is 155.4 pounds—down 2.2 percent from the previous year. The 2023 preliminary fresh vegetable availability (excluding potatoes) is about 2 pounds less per person than the previous 3-year average. A slight increase in fresh market vegetable production in 2023 was not enough to offset lower import volumes of bell peppers, lettuce, and onions.

Processing vegetables: Estimated per capita availability of processing vegetables is 114.8 pounds per person in 2023—up 5 percent from a year earlier. This estimate is almost 2 pounds higher than the previous 3-year average (2020–22) of 112.9 pounds. The availability of major processing vegetables, such as tomatoes and sweet corn, increased year-over-year with higher domestic production and import volumes.

Potatoes: The USDA, ERS preliminary per capita availability of potatoes for calendar year 2023 is 118.1 pounds. This is a 5 percent increase from 2022 and reflects last year's larger domestic potato crop as well as increased import volumes of fresh, frozen, and potato chip products. The bigger 2023 crop has softened prices and increased stocks. ERS projects 2024 potato planted acreage in the top 13 potato-producing States to decline 3–4 percent from 2023. USDA, NASS will publish its planted acreage estimate for potatoes in the June Acreage report.

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