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Situation and Outlook Report: Vegetables and Specialties

Vegetables and Specialties: Summary – summer 1991 crop yields for major fresh-market vegetables expected to be 5 percent higher relative to 1990, 6 percent higher for tomatoes, and 6 percent higher for lettuce; acreage for potatoes increases by 2 percent, dry edible bean production fell by 4 percent, mushroom sales up 5 percent

Summary – summer 1991 crop yields for major fresh-market vegetables expected to be 5 percent higher relative to 1990, 6 percent higher for tomatoes, and 6 percent higher for lettuce; acreage for potatoes increases by 2 percent, dry edible bean production fell by 4 percent, mushroom sales up 5 percent – U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Economic Research Service report

Summer harvest for major fresh-market vegetables is estimated to be up 5 percent from 1990. Summer 1991 tomato harvest is estimated to be 61,200 acres, 6 percent higher than a year earlier and the highest in four years. Lettuce acreage harvested is estimated to be 6 percent higher than a year earlier, at 40,400. Grower prices for fresh-market vegetables swung to new highs during the 1991 spring quarter from the near-record lows of spring 1990. Not since the 1989 late-February freeze in Florida have second- quarter prices been so high. Only in late June, when California producers began to replenish market channels, did prices return to normal. Retail prices for celery, carrots, sweet corn, lettuce, onions, peppers, and tomatoes were especially high this spring. Despite supply problems during the spring, first-half 1991 exports of fresh vegetables and melons rose 13 percent above a year earlier. The value of these exports totaled $475 million, up 24 percent. Because of freeze-reduced first-quarter 1990 exports, the increase in 1991 appeared much stronger than normal. Overall, shipments of fresh specialty vegetables during first-half 1991 were up 10 percent over last year. Romaine lettuce (up 13 percent) and butterhead and leaf (up 8 percent) accounted for almost half the specialty volume. Tropical produce shipments, however, showed the biggest jump, increasing 58 percent over last year. First-half shipments of fresh herbs were also up this year, with miscellaneous fresh herbs (including basil, chives, cilantro, dill, and mint) almost doubling. Total vegetable processing acreage for harvest is up fractionally this year as higher canning area is nearly offset by smaller freezing area. For the third consecutive year, tomato processors planned for record tonnage. With favorable conditions, a tomato crop of 10.9 million short tons (up from the 10.4 million of 1990) is in prospect. In question is whether processing capacity can handle the expected bunching of California tomatoes toward season’s end caused by the growth-slowing cool, wet weather at the start of the season. In early August, reported tomato deliveries were below a year earlier and it seemed unlikely that tonnage would reach projected goals. First-half 1991 exports of U.S. canned vegetables rose 17 percent over last year, primarily due to increased sales of tomato products. Tomato paste export volume doubled as sales to Canada accounted for 59 percent and Japan took 17 percent. Fall 1991/92 potato acreage for harvest has been estimated at 1.18 million acres, 2 percent above the 1990/91 area. This would be the largest harvested fall acreage since seasonal records began in 1949. The gain reflects the unusual strength of potato prices during the past 3 years, lack of attractive crop alternatives, and continued strong demand for potatoes and potato products. The first estimate of U.S. dry edible bean production indicated a 4 percent decline in output of all classes to 31.0 million cwt. However, if fully realized, this would be the third largest crop on record and comes after the near-record 1990 crop. Although acreage for harvest is down 11 percent, average yield per acre is expected to increase 10 percent to a record 1,660 pounds as yields improved in North Dakota, Washington, and Minnesota. After 3 dry years, improved growing conditions in North Dakota led to a 37 percent increase in per acre yields over 1990 to 1,250 pounds. The volume and value of U.S. mushrooms sales were up 5 and 1 percent during the 1990/91 crop year, increasing for the sixth consecutive year. Fresh-market mushrooms increased slightly to 512 million pounds, and accounted for 68 percent of the total crop. Demand for fresh mushrooms continues to increase, and innovations in packaging and post-harvest technology continue to improve the quality at retail.

COPYRIGHT 1991 For more information, contact US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. Phone: 1-800-999-6779 (8:30-5:00 ET).

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