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California Drought 2014: Crop Sectors


Fruit, tree nuts, and vegetables play a dominant role in California agriculture, and California producers account for a large share of U.S. production of many products in these categories. More than half of California’s agricultural crop value comes from fruit and tree nut production ($15 billion average for 2010-12) and about a quarter from commercial vegetables ($6.3 billion, excluding potatoes) (fig. 1). These commodities represent over 60 percent of total U.S. fruit and tree nut farm value and 51 percent of vegetable farm value.

Drought-Affected Crop Areas

Integral to California’s fruit, tree nuts, and vegetable sectors are the San Joaquin Valley and Central Coast district, where drought conditions are at exceptional levels. These two production areas generate more than half of California’s fruit and tree nuts on a farm-value basis and about 20 percent of vegetable farm value (based on the California County Agricultural Commissioners’ Reports, 2012).

  • The San Joaquin Valley district includes San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, and Kern counties.
  • The Central Coast district includes Alameda, Contra Costa, Lake, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma counties.
  • Most of these areas are irrigated—99 percent of orchard and berry acreage in the San Joaquin Valley and 94 percent in the Central Coast district. For vegetables, both these districts are virtually all irrigated.
  • The San Joaquin Valley is the largest fruit and nut producing district in the State, accounting for 64 percent of total fruit and nut crop value in 2012. Grapes, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, oranges, peaches, tangerines, and sweet cherries are the primary fruit and nut crops produced in the valley.
  • The San Joaquin Valley also produces one-third of California’s vegetables, which in 2012 amounted to a district total of $2.65 billion in gross farm value (based on County Agricultural Commissioners’ Reports, 2012). It is the second-largest vegetable-producing district in California, next to the Central Coast Valley, which generated $3.36 billion in gross farm value in the same year.  
  • 92 percent of harvested vegetable acreage in the Central Coast district is for the fresh market, according to USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture, while those in the San Joaquin Valley are more equally divided between the fresh and processing markets (48 percent and 52 percent, respectively).

Figure 1Crop shares

California: A Major Producer of Fruits and Tree Nuts

  • The 2012 Census of Agriculture reports that 22 percent of all U.S. farms growing fruit (including berries), tree nuts, and vegetables are in California, accounting for 43 percent of the total acreage for the sector.
  • Most of this acreage is under irrigation—specifically, 98 percent of the State’s land in orchards, 100 percent of the land in berries, and 100 percent of the land planted to vegetables.
  • California grows an overwhelming majority of the Nation’s grapes, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, avocados, raspberries, kiwifruit, olives, dates, and figs (table 1).
  • California’s tree nut production is the Nation’s largest, supplying virtually all U.S. almonds, walnuts, and pistachios.
  • California ranks second to Florida in citrus production but is the major supplier of citrus fruit for the fresh market. A vast majority of citrus acreage in the State is devoted to oranges. California also produces over 90 percent of U.S. lemons and more than 50 percent of U.S. tangerines.
Table 1. California fruit and tree nuts: Commodity rank, acreage, production value, 2012
CommodityU.S. rank 1/
(Number)
CA share of U.S. production 1/
(Percent)
Area harvested
(1,000 acres)
Production
(1,000 tons)
Total value 2/
($1,000)
Harvest season
Almonds (shelled) 3/ 1 99 780 1000 4,347,200 Aug. 1-
Oct. 31
Apples 4 3 17.5 150 77,750 July 15-
Oct. 30
Apricots 1 88 10.8 53.8 32,260 May 1-
July 15
Avocados 1 88 12.5 31.1 381,957  Continuous
Berries, blueberries 6 9 4.7 20.4 133,743  —
Berries, rasberries 1 74 5.4 48.6 239,820 June 1-
Oct. 31
Berries, fresh strawberries 1 91 38.5 1096.8 1,939,142 Feb. 20-
Nov. 15
Berries, processed strawberries 1 92  — 285 182,432  —
Cherries, sweet 2 22 31 92.3 257,772 May 20-
June 25
Dates 3/ 1 82 8.4 31.1 41,674 Oct. 1-
Dec. 15
Figs 3/ 4/ 1 96 8.6 38.7 20,335 June 10-
Sept. 15
Grapefruit, all 3 15 9.4 160 55,880 Nov. 1-
Oct. 31
Grapes, all 1 91 796 6678 4,450,626  —
Kiwifruit 3/ 4/ 1 97 4.2 29.6 22,940 Oct. 1-
May 31
Lemons 1 92 45 800 435,752 Aug. 1-
July 31
Nectarines 3/ 1 95 25 180 139,860 June 10-
Sept. 5
Olives 3/ 1 96 44 160 13,038 Sept. 25-
Mar. 15
Oranges, all 2 29 177 2320 764,783 Nov. 1-
Oct.31
Peaches, clingstone 1 100 23 369 128,397 July 15-
Sept. 15
Peaches, freestone 1 56 24 344 202,297 May10-
Sept. 15
Peaches, all 1 73 47 713 330,694 — 
Pears, all 3 25 14 215 93,977 Aug. 5-
Oct. 5
Pecans 7 2  — 24 7,584 Sept. 1-
Nov. 30
Pistachios, 3/ 1 98 178 2755 1,113,020 Sept. 15-
Dec. 10
Plums 3/ 1 97 25 115 79,940 May 25-
Aug. 20
Plums, dried 3/ 1 99 55 125 156,250 Aug. 15-
Oct. 10
Mandarins, specialty citrus 1 51 38 540 D Nov. 1 -
May 15
Walnuts 3/ 4/ 1 99 245 470 1,363,000 Sept. 5-
Nov. 10
Fruit and tree nuts total value         17,373,946  
1/ Based on quantity produced.  2/ Based on the value of quantity harvested. 3/ Share of U.S. production based on 2007 Census of Agriculture.  4/ Calculated using 2012 production multiplied by 2011 price. D = witheld to avoid disclosing data for individual operations.
Source: USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Pacific Regional Office-California,  California Agricultural Statistics, 2012.

Fruit and Tree Nuts: U.S. and California Production Updates

As of August, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) published 2014 production forecasts for a number of fruit and tree nut crops (table 2).  For many of these crops, national-level production volumes are anticipated to be down from 2013, largely driven by expected reduced production in California. While drought remains a serious concern among California growers, other weather events were also reported to have contributed to the anticipated lower production of certain fruit and nuts in the State.  Smaller crops in other major producing States are also contributing to the overall production declines, particularly for oranges, tangerines and mandarins, grapes, pears, and peaches.  Meanwhile, despite extreme drought conditions, larger crops are forecast for California almonds, apricots, and prunes in 2014.  

  • As of July 2014, nearly 80 percent of California’s 2014 lemon crop (for the 2013/14 marketing season) was harvested.   With over 90 percent of U.S. production, lemon production in California is forecast at 800,000 tons in 2013/14, 5 percent below the previous season.  The drop in lemon production is due mainly to smaller-sized fruit harvested earlier in the year as a result of some freezing temperatures in December 2013 and January 2014.  Fresh lemon grower prices have remained strong each month throughout the 2013/14 marketing year, averaging $34.20 per box, 80 percent higher than the 2012/13 average price.  The increase in price can be attributed to the smaller crop which is of high quality, further pushing up prices, all in conjunction with a short supply of limes earlier this spring that further boosted demand on the already short lemon crop.
  • California’s 2013/14 orange production is forecast down 1 percent from the previous season.  The same freeze events in late-2013 (including November) impacting lemons also affected sizing of California oranges.   Fresh orange monthly grower prices experienced elevated prices during the 2013/14 season through June 2014 when compared to 2012/13 prices.  The much smaller U.S. orange crop, mostly attributable to complications of production in Florida, has pushed prices up to highs not seen since the Hurricane Andrew-impacted production in the early 1990s.  As competition over the available supply continues for processing and fresh use, prices should remain elevated above last season.
  • U.S. grape production is forecast at 7.9 million tons in 2014 (for the 2014/15 marketing season), 8 percent below the 2013 record production.  California’s production will account for 89 percent of this volume, with forecast crop size down 9 percent from last year's record but 6 percent above the average 2008-12 crop.  Already, 2014/15 U.S. fresh grape grower prices are showing strength, with the June-July average price sharply higher than for the same period in 2008-12, based on NASS-reported monthly grower prices.  (NASS did not report any monthly prices in 2013.) Wine-, table-, and raisin-type grapes in California will all be down in volume in 2014/15.  A warm spring advanced crop development earlier than last year.  Drought remains a major concern among growers but hail in the spring affected blooms in some vineyards.  Bunch counts are down from a year ago for wine and raisin grapes.  Smaller crops are also forecast in New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Missouri, and Arkansas, with combined production to represent 5 percent of total volume.   
  • U.S. peach production is forecast at 863,855 tons in 2014, down 4 percent from a year ago.  Production from dominant supplier California is also forecast down 4 percent.  In addition, extreme winter weather and spring frosts hampered production in several other producing States mostly in the eastern half of the country, including Michigan and Texas.   As of June-July this year, reduced supplies of U.S. peaches have bolstered U.S. fresh peach grower prices by almost 80 percent above the average price for the same period in 2008-12 and over 20 percent above the overall 2013 season-average price.   
  • California’s sweet cherry production is forecast down sharply, causing overall U.S. production to be down 2 percent in 2014 from a year ago.  California’s warm and dry winter this year provided inadequate chill hours for cherry trees to produce a full crop.  Poor pollination hampered fruit set, dramatically reducing yields.  The small crop in California resulted in tight supplies early this summer, but demand through late summer has been met by much larger crops in other-producing States, especially in Washington and Oregon.   
  • A forecast smaller apple crop in California in 2014 will be more than offset by record production in Washington State and several apple producing States in the U.S. eastern and western regions.  U.S. apple production is forecast to be up 4 percent in 2014 from a year ago, totaling 5.4 million tons.  
  • U.S. almond production is forecast to be record-high in 2014, with 1.05 million tons—5 percent larger than 2013’s harvest.  Production gains are due, in large part, to larger kernel weights and 20,000 additional bearing acres, bringing total bearing acreage up to 860,000 in 2014.  The kernel weight pushes yields per acre up this season, which if realized would be the second largest yield per acre on record.
Table 2. Fruit and tree nuts: Production volume, selected crops 1/
 

U.S. Volume
(1,000 tons)

Change
(Percent)
 California Volume
(1,000 tons)
Change
(Percent)
Commodity201220132014F2013-14201220132014F2013-14
Citrus                
Lemons  850  912  871  -4.5  820  840  800  -4.8
Oranges  8982  8269  6935  -16.1 2320  2180  2160  -0.9
Tangerines and mandarins  644  684  668  -2.3  432  520  520  0.0
Grapefruit  1153  1204  1053  -12.5  160  180  160  -11.1
Tangelos  52  45  40  -11.1  —  —  —  
Noncitrus                
Apples  4491  5221  5444  4  135  135  130  -3.7
Apricots  61  61  61  0.7  54  54  55  1.1
Grapes  7527  8606  7938  -8.3  6852  7717  7050  -8.6
Peaches  977  902  864  -4.2  713  648  625  -3.5
Pears  851  877  799  -8.9  208  220  193  -12.3
Prunes  —  —  —    138  85  95  11.8
Sweet cherries  424  332  326  -1.6  92  82  30  -63.4
Tree nuts                
Almonds, shelled basis (California only) 2/  945  1005  1050  4.5  945  1005  1050  4.5
1/ Crops listed are those with available 2014 production forecasts from USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). 2/  Utilized production.  F = forecast. For citrus crops, forecast is for the 2013/14 marketing season which is almost finished; for noncitrus and tree nut crops, forecast is for the upcoming 2014/15 marketing season.  — = Not available.
Sources: USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Crop Production (July and August 2014 issues), Cherry Production (June 2014 issue), Noncitrus Fruit and Nuts 2013 Summary (July 2014). 

California: A Major Producer of Vegetables and Melons

California is the leading U.S. producer of various vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, snap beans, broccoli, cauliflower, fresh market cabbage, celery, lettuce, spinach, and tomatoes, to name a few (table 4). California is also the Nation’s largest producer of melons, accounting for about one-third of annual U.S. volume.

  • Lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, and fresh-market carrots were among the top 20 commodities produced by the State in 2012, accounting for 56 percent of its total production value for vegetables and melons.
  • More than half of California-grown melons are cantaloupes, of which the State is the largest U.S. producer, along with honeydew melons. Watermelons are the most predominantly grown melon in the United States, and California is the third-largest producer, after Florida and Georgia.

Note:  Vegetable and melon production updates to come following release of NASS data.

Table 3. California vegetables and melons: Commodity rank, acreage, production value, 2012
CommodityU.S. rank 1/
(Number)
CA share of U.S.
production 1/
(Percent)
Area harvested
(1,000 acres)
Production
(1,000 tons)
Total value
2/
($1,000)
Harvest
season
 Artichokes 3/ 1  99  7.8  56.6  53,723  Continuous
 Asparagus 1  48  11.5  18.4  48,208  Jan. 1-
 Nov. 30
 Beans, fresh market snap 1  18  9.2  48.3  62,887  June 1-
 Dec. 31
 Broccoli 1  95  119  971.8  644,747  Continuous
 Cabbage, fresh 2  21  11.5  218.5  74,727  Continuous
 Carrots, fresh 1  81  61  945.5  503,006  Continuous
 Cauliflower 1  86  32  288  194,952  Jan. 20-
 Dec. 15
 Celery 1  94  27  931.5  344,024  Continuous
 Corn, fresh sweet 2  19  33.8  295.8  123,032  May 1-
 Dec. 1
 Cucumbers, fresh 4   7  3.7  37  30,784  Apr. 1-
 Nov. 30
 Garlic 3/ 1  98  25  212.5  221,289  Apr. 1-
 Sept. 15
 Lettuce, head 1  71  90  1620  596,160  Jan. 1-
 Nov. 30
 Lettuce, leaf 1  85  43.2  529.2  369,382  Continuous
 Lettuce, romaine 1  75  66.5  1030.7  482,391  Continuous
 Melons, cantaloupe 1  64  36  540  185,760  June 1-
 Dec. 15
 Melons, honeydew 1  73  10.5  126  47,376  June 1-
 Dec. 15
 Melons, watermelon 3  16  10  305  78,080  May 1-
 Nov. 30
 Mushroom, Agaricus 2  14  0.6  60.7  208,118  Continuous
 Onions, all 1  27  43.7  981.6  179,702  May 1-
 Oct. 31
 Peppers, bell 1  53  23.3  494.6  280,820  Apr. 1-
 Oct. 31
 Peppers, chile 1  65  7.1  157.8  99,682  May 1-
 Nov. 30
 Pumpkins 2  15  5.5  93.5  27,489  Sept. 1-
 Oct. 31
 Spinach, fresh 1  60  21.2  159  140,556  Continuous
 Spinach, processing 1  85  6.5  88  12,313  Continuous
 Squash 3  16  6.1  61  35,052  June 1-
 Aug. 31
 Tomatoes, fresh 1  35  31  488.2  221,666  May 15-
 Jan. 31
 Tomatoes, processing 1  96  258  12640  948,000  June 20-
 Nov. 10
 Other, vegetables and melons          552,362  
Vegetable and melon crops total  value        6,766,288 

1/ Based on quantity produced. 2/ Based on the value of quantity harvested. 3/ Based on values published in the county agricultural commissioners' annual crop reports. Vegetable and melon production updates to come after release of NASS data.
Source: USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Pacific Regional Office-California,  California Agricultural Statistics, 2012.

Import Share of Fruit, Tree Nut, and Vegetable Domestic Use

Although regarded as a major global producer of fruit, tree nuts, and vegetables, overall the United States is a net importer of these products.  U.S. imports of fruit, tree nuts and vegetables continue to grow rapidly in response to increased demand, partly owing to our growing ethnic population, increased awareness of the importance of fruit, tree nuts and vegetables in a healthy diet, and increased demand for new products.  Imports have been critical in increasing year-round domestic supplies by providing off-season products (e.g., grapes and stone fruit from Chile and asparagus from Peru in the winter) and tropical fruit (bananas, papayas, pineapple, mangoes, and limes) for which there is limited to no domestic production. Imports also help fill supply gaps resulting from occasional adverse weather or in the case of fruit and tree nuts, their alternate-bearing nature.    

  • Domestic fruit imports continue to rise, especially in the fresh, canned, and juice markets. In recent years, U.S. markets for fresh and canned fruit, as well as fruit juice, are the most dependent on imports to satisfy domestic demand. In 2012/13, 49 percent of fresh fruit (including bananas), 38 percent of canned fruit, and 44 percent fruit juice consumed in the United States were from imports (table 4).  Bananas make up about half of total U.S. import volume for fresh fruit and are sourced from Guatemala, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Honduras. Excluding bananas, U.S. fresh fruit imports account for about one-third of domestic fresh fruit use.
  • Mexico and Chile are the leading suppliers of fresh fruit imports (excluding bananas) in the United States.  About one-third of U.S. fresh and frozen fruit imports (excluding bananas) come from Mexico, and include fruits such as limes, tangerines, mangoes, grapes, pineapples, papayas, avocados, and strawberries. Chile accounts for a 20-percent share. Chile’s Southern Hemisphere location means that it can provide fresh fruit during the times when the United States produces little, complementing domestic production particularly from November through March.  
  • Other fruit and fruit product suppliers to the United States include Brazil (the largest supplier of orange juice), as well as China, Argentina, and Chile (the leading suppliers of apple juice). Western Europe is a major supplier of processed fruit products, such as wine and fruit juices. Southeast Asia--specifically, Thailand and the Philippines, for canned pineapple--provides the largest share of canned fruit products.
  • U.S. demand for almonds, walnuts, and pistachios is met mostly by domestic production.  U.S. tree nut imports supplement the domestic market with products that are not domestically produced, namely cashew nuts and Brazil nuts. While a major global producer, the United States imports almost as much pecans as it exports with annual import volumes ranking second highest among all U.S. tree nut imports.
  • Processed vegetables, on aggregate, have a slightly higher reliance on imports than fresh vegetables to meet domestic demand (table 5).   
  • U.S. imports of vegetables (including mushrooms and potatoes) reached a total value of $9.8 billion in 2013, up 13 percent from 2010-12 average. The increase was mainly led by fresh vegetables (up 18 percent) which accounted for 65 percent of the 2013 import value followed by potatoes (8 percent) and frozen vegetables (7 percent). With the added trade advantages of NAFTA and close proximity to the United States, Mexico remained the top foreign source with 48 percent of import value, followed by Canada (21 percent). China (7percent), Peru (5 percent), and the remaining countries (18 percent) accounted for 30 percent of import value in 2013.
Table 4. Import share of domestic use for selected fruit and tree nut products, 3-year average and 2012/2013
 Import share
(Percent)
Commodities 2009/10 - 2011/122012/13
Fresh    
Apricots  8  8
Avocados  66  69
Cherries  9  6
Grapes  50  51
Kiwifruit  76  80
Lemons  10  11
Mandarins and tangerines  26  24
Oranges  7  8
Peeches and nectarines  8  7
Plums  26  27
Strawberries  9  14
All, fresh fruit  48  49
Dried    
Apricots  96  97
Dates  45  53
Figs  42  52
Peeches  83  72
Prunes  2  2
Raisins  10  9
All, dried fruit  20  20
Canned    
Apricots  3  6
Sweet cherries  58  68
Olives  69  58
Peaches  12  18
Plums  27  43
All, canned fruit  32  38
Juice    
Grape  47  59
Wine  30  34
Prune  50  36
Lemon  53  79
Orange  26  23
All, juiced fruit  42  44
Tree nuts    
Almonds  4  6
Pistachios  2  1
Walnuts  2  6
Source: USDA, Economic Research Service, Fruit and Tree Nuts Yearbook, 2013
Table 5. Import share of domestic use for select vegetables and pulses products, 3-year average and 2012/12
CommodityImport share
(Percent)
2010-122013
Fresh Market    
Artichokes 81 81
Asparagus 90 90
Beans, snap 21 24
Broccoli 15 18
Cabbage 6 8
Corn, sweet 4 4
Carrots 15 15
Cauliflower 9 11
Celery 5 7
Garlic 56 53
Lettuce, head 5 6
Lettuce, leaf and romaine 3 5
Onions 15 17
Peppers, bell 52 57
Spinach 3 3
Tomatoes 53 55
Total (excluding potatoes, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes) 25 27
Processing    
Asparagus, freezing 77 82
Broccoli, processing 95 90
Cauliflower, processing 86 88
Onions, dehydration 22 34
Peppers, chile (all uses) 82 83
Spinach, freezing 34 43
Tomatoes, processing 6 7
Total, canning (excluding potatoes and mushrooms) 14 14
Total, freezing (excluding potatoes) 34 37

Source: USDA, Economic Research Service, Vegetables and Pulses Yearbook, May 2014.

 

Last updated: Friday, September 12, 2014

For more information contact: Agnes Perez and Hodan Farah Wells

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