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Per Capita Availability of Vegetables Rises in 2017

Despite production declines, falling exports raised per capita availability of vegetables and pulses in 2017, according to USDA’s Vegetables and Pulses Outlook Report, dated April 27.

The agency reported domestic availability of vegetables grew slightly in 2017. The report indicates a steep decrease in exports was the driving force behind this increase, with per capita availability of fresh vegetables in the U.S. climbing to about 188-lbs. This number represents a 1-lb. increase from 2016 levels. Additionally, the per capita availability of processed vegetables grew to just over 200-lbs., representing a 3-lbs. increase from 2016.

Export volumes for both fresh and processed vegetables dropped in 2017. Although fresh market vegetable imports increased slightly, the processed vegetable market remained relatively steady when compared to the prior year. Per capita availability was helped by this outlook, with a large amount of beginning stocks of canned vegetables pushing availability up. Additionally, it helped place downward pressure on the pricing of processed vegetables.

Overall domestic fresh vegetable production dropped 2% in 2017, and processed vegetable production dropped 12%. Crop yields were hindered by a series of unpredictable weather patterns. Weather in major crop areas of California points to boosted yield potential, which, when coupled with current acreage, indicates higher production of fresh-market and processed vegetables. Imports for 2018 show continued signs of growth. Exports of fresh vegetables also seem poised to surpass 2017 levels, while exports of processed vegetables remain depressed.

In the early going of 2018, California’s major crop areas were enjoying favorable weather which points to boosted yield potential. When combined with current acreage estimates, USDA predicted higher production of both fresh-market and processed vegetables. Data for 2018 indicates both imports and exports of fresh vegetables are poised to surpass 2017 levels, while exports of processed vegetables remained depressed.

In 2017, dry conditions pushed production down in major growing regions. Planted area for pulses is forecast to shrink in 2018, with the dry bean area forecasted to decline by 7%. Additionally, dry peas and lentils planted areas are expected to drop 20% and 28%, respectively. However, chickpea planted area is expected to rise 7% in 2018.