May 22, 2019

U.S. vegetable production for processing up 9% in 2018

Consumer demand for fresh vegetables in the U.S. remains high, but domestic fresh vegetable production fell 10% from 2017 to 2018, marking the largest year-to-year decline of the last 20 years (1999-2018). Furthermore, for the same 20-year period, 2018 domestic fresh vegetable production reached its lowest level at 359 billion pounds, largely the result of diminishing harvested area.

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% of total fresh and processed production volume. Production value fell 12% from a year earlier due to lower production volumes and falling prices for most fresh-market vegetables.

Production for processing

Production of vegetables for the processing market (excluding potatoes and mushrooms) totaled 34.2 billion pounds in 2018 — up 9% from 2017. The majority of individual processing crops reported volume declines, including sweet corn, which declined only 1.8% in 2018 and constituted just 15% of total processing vegetables and had the second-largest production behind tomatoes.

However tomatoes, which account for three-quarters of total processing volume in 2018, increased 17% to 25.6 billion pounds, leading the overall increase of the sector. The rebound of the 2018 tomato volume was primarily due to exceptionally low volume in 2017 caused by lower planted tomato acreage due to California drought concerns and high tomato stocks.

Rebounding tomato production, coupled with growing imports and falling exports for 2018, has boosted total domestic availability and per capita availability for total processing vegetables. California tomato processors are expecting lower processed tomato production for the 2019 season total due to lower area planted, despite expectation of improved yields over last year.

— Source: USDA ERS