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Romaine and leaf lettuces almost as popular as head lettuce

Friday, June 21, 2019

In 2017, 13.2 pounds per person of fresh head lettuce (iceberg, butter, Boston, and Bibb lettuces) were available for domestic consumption, according to ERS’s Food Availability data. Fresh head lettuce has declined 54 percent from its high of 28.6 pounds per person in 1989. In contrast, availability of romaine and leaf lettuces (such as red and green leaf lettuces) increased, reaching 12.5 pounds per person in 2017 from 3.3 pounds per person in 1985 and almost equaling head lettuce. The growing popularity of prepackaged, ready-to-eat salad greens contributed to the rise in availability of romaine and leaf lettuces. ERS annually calculates national supplies available for domestic consumption by summing domestic production, beginning inventories, and imports and then subtracting exports and ending inventories. Per capita estimates are calculated by dividing these national supplies by the U.S. population. The data for this chart come from the Food Availability data series in ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.

U.S. sweet potato production declined 23 percent in 2018 due to Hurricane Florence

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Following a record-high sweet potato production year in 2017, Hurricane Florence slammed into North Carolina’s sweet potato growing region in September 2018, contributing to the largest single-year U.S. production fall in 48 years. 2018 U.S. sweet potato production fell 23 percent to 2.7 billion pounds, a decrease of more than 800 million pounds from 2017. Total sweet potato production was the lowest since 2013. During 2015–17, North Carolina averaged 54 percent of total U.S. sweet potato production, but fell to 40 percent in 2018 as the State’s production dipped to 11 billion pounds from 19.7 billion pounds in 2017. Other major reporting States, in order of production, include California, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Production was mostly flat for all of these States except for California, which increased its production by 19 percent to 7.8 billion pounds. The average price in 2018 for sweet potatoes reacted to the national decline in production and surged to $23.90 per hundredweight—the second-largest annual increase in 27 years and a tie for the second-highest price on record (in nominal terms). This chart appears in the ERS Vegetables and Pulses Outlook newsletter, released in May 2019.

Greenhouse-grown fresh-market tomato imports have risen steadily since 2000

Thursday, May 9, 2019

As the U.S. fresh-market tomato sector has evolved to provide an increasing volume and variety of globally sourced offerings, U.S. per capita availability of fresh-market tomatoes has steadily risen. Major factors shaping the fresh tomato market include growing numbers of imports, changing consumer demographics and tastes, and emerging production technologies. One illustration of the convergence of these drivers comes from the rising availability of greenhouse-grown tomatoes, which provide year-round access to more diverse tomato varieties than were previously available. Since 2014, greenhouse imports have made up approximately 55 percent of total fresh tomato imports into the United States. Prior to 2005, U.S., Mexican, and Canadian growers each contributed about 300 million pounds of greenhouse tomatoes annually to the U.S. fresh-tomato market. Since then, Mexico’s share of the greenhouse tomato market has grown sharply, averaging 35 percent annual growth, in parallel with expanding shipments of field-grown fresh tomatoes from Mexico to the United States. In 2017, imports from Mexico accounted for almost 84 percent (1.8 billion pounds) of the greenhouse-tomato volume coming into the U.S. market. Imports of Canadian greenhouse-grown tomatoes have remained at about 300 million pounds. This chart appears in the May 2019 ERS Amber Waves article, “Imported Greenhouse Tomatoes From Mexico Illustrate the Growing Diversity in Fresh-Market Tomatoes.”

Americans consumed almost 12 pounds of legumes per person in 2017

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Naturally gluten-free, high in fiber, and a good source of protein, Americans’ consumption of legumes (beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas) has trended upward in recent years, according to ERS’s Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series (a proxy for consumption). U.S. consumption of legumes reached 11.7 pounds per person in 2017, up from 8.0 pounds per person in 2014. Rising demand by U.S. consumers for Tex-Mex dishes and food products like hummus drove the increase. From 1970–2017, the largest growth occurred in the consumption of black beans, increasing to 1 pound per capita, and peas and lentils, increasing to 4.7 pounds per capita—the highest consumption among all categories. Pinto beans experienced an uptick in 2017, climbing to 2.9 pounds per person. Despite falling slightly in 2017, consumption of other legumes (chickpeas, black eyed peas, small white, small red, pink, and other beans) has steadily risen, and has grown 63 percent over the past 47 years. However, not all legumes have grown in popularity. Lima bean consumption fell to 0.2 pound per person in 2017—a 74-percent decrease from 1970. Consumption of navy, great northern, and red kidney beans fell 58 percent during this time period as well. The data for this chart come from the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series in ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.

U.S. growers are harvesting an increasing amount of organic tomatoes

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Fresh tomatoes have remained a staple in American kitchens even as consumer tastes and preferences evolve. For example, producers have responded to consumer demand for more organic produce by cultivating more organic tomatoes. From 2008 to 2011, consumer price sensitivity coupled with the higher price of organic produce (relative to conventional produce) contributed to the decline in both demand and production. During that time, organic tomato acreage fell approximately 32 percent to 6,000 acres in 2011. However, after 2011, organic tomato prices and harvest areas began to rebound, spurring production to grow by 50 percent from 2011 to 2015. From 2015 to 2016, acres harvested of organic tomatoes grew by another 39 percent to reach record levels—12,400 acres in 2016. Between January 2013 and January 2018, average advertised retail prices for round organic tomatoes (excluding Roma and cherry varieties) were $1.43 per pound—over 60 percent higher than their conventional counterparts at $0.89 per pound. This chart appears in the ERS Special Outlook Report, “Unpacking the Growth in Per Capita Availability of Fresh Market Tomatoes,” released in March 2019.

Greenhouse tomato production spans most U.S. States

Monday, March 18, 2019

Errata: On March 19, 2019, the legend of the Chart of Note “Greenhouse tomato production spans most U.S. States” was corrected so that the second lowest category is properly listed as “100,000 pounds to 500,000 pounds.”

While Florida and California accounted for 76 percent of U.S. production of field-grown tomatoes in 2016, greenhouse production and use of other protected-culture technologies help extend the growing season and make production feasible in a wider variety of geographic locations. Some greenhouse production is clustered in traditional field-grown-tomato-producing States like California. However, high concentrations of greenhouses are also located in Nebraska, Minnesota, New York, and other States that are not traditional market leaders. Among the benefits that greenhouse tomato producers can realize are greater market access both in the off-season and in northern retail produce markets, better product consistency, and improved yields. These benefits make greenhouse tomato production an increasingly attractive alternative to field production despite higher production costs. In addition to domestic production, a significant share of U.S. consumption of greenhouse tomatoes is satisfied by imports. In 2004, U.S., Mexican, and Canadian growers each contributed about 300 million pounds of greenhouse tomatoes annually to the U.S. fresh tomato market. Since then, Mexico’s share of the greenhouse tomato market has grown sharply, accounting for almost 84 percent (1.8 billion pounds) of the greenhouse volume coming into the U.S. market. This chart appears in the ERS report “Unpacking the Growth in Per Capita Availability of Fresh Market Tomatoes,” released in March 2019.

Illinois produces the largest share of processed pumpkin in the United States by a large margin

Friday, October 26, 2018

In advance of National Pumpkin Day on October 26 and Halloween on October 31, many Americans will have spent time searching for the perfect pumpkins for their jack-o’-lanterns. Although all U.S. States produce some pumpkins, the U.S. Census of Agriculture reports that six States contained about one-half of all pumpkin acres in 2012. Illinois has consistently been the Nation’s largest pumpkin producer, but most of Illinois’s pumpkins, nearly 80 percent, are processed for pie filling or other uses—compared to a little over 10 percent processed in Michigan. Fresh pumpkin supplies from most States are targeted toward the seasonal market for ornamental uses and home processing. Growers mainly produce jack-o'-lantern type pumpkins (like the Howden variety), but demand for specialty pumpkins (like White Howden, Blue, Cinderella, and Fairytale) continues to expand as consumers look for new and interesting varieties. Initial reports for 2018 pumpkin production indicate healthy crops in Illinois and California. However, some reports from Michigan indicate a challenging year for pumpkins due to early drought, recent downpours, and disease. This chart appears in the ERS Pumpkins: Background & Statistics topic page, updated in October 2018.

Vegetable costs range from 17 cents to $2.47 per cup equivalent

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

“Add More Vegetables to Your Day” and “Vary Your Veggies” are among USDA’s key messages about how Americans can achieve healthier diets. However, many Americans still consume an insufficient quantity and variety of vegetables. One reason may be a lingering perception that vegetables are expensive. To address this perception, ERS recently estimated average retail prices paid in 2016 for 92 fresh and processed vegetables (including legumes), measured in cup equivalents. A cup equivalent is the edible portion that will generally fit in a 1-cup measuring cup; 2 cups for lettuce and other raw leafy greens. ERS researchers found that iceberg lettuce, fresh whole carrots, canned green beans, and 13 other products cost less than 40 cents per cup equivalent, while 55 vegetables, including baby carrots, frozen mixed vegetables, and canned tomatoes, cost between 40 and 79 cents per cup equivalent. Fresh asparagus, at $2.47 per cup equivalent, is the priciest of these 92 vegetables, and dried pinto beans at $0.17 are the least expensive. The data in this chart are from ERS's Fruit and Vegetable Prices data product, updated July 11, 2018.

Farm share of retail price of head lettuce rose in 2017

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The farm share of the retail price of head lettuce—the ratio of what farmers received to what consumers paid per pound in grocery stores—was 38 percent in 2017, the highest farm share since the 1990s. In 2017, while the national, monthly average price of head lettuce at grocery stores fell 3 cents to $1.03 per pound, the monthly average price received by farmers rose 12 cents to $0.37 per pound. ERS’s calculation of the farm share for head lettuce takes into account loss that occurs in grocery stores from spoilage and trimming by assuming that farmers supply a little less than 1.1 pounds for each pound sold at retail. Farm prices for head lettuce were particularly high during the first half of 2017. Flooding in California, brought on by heavy rains early in the year, delayed the planting and harvesting of head lettuce. California accounts for close to three-fourths of head lettuce production. Reduced supplies of head lettuce pushed farm prices higher, but had only a short-lived impact on retail prices. This chart appears in “Monitoring Trends in Retail Prices and Farm Shares of Food Products” in the August 2018 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Production of romaine lettuce is growing

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The two top States for production of romaine lettuce are California and Arizona, with Arizona comprising about a quarter of total harvested acreage in recent years. Since 2010, Arizona’s harvested area of romaine lettuce has been growing steadily at about 7 percent annually. Over the same period, prices received by producers in Arizona have been somewhat higher, although more variable, than prices in California. Seasonally, the Arizona romaine crop is typically harvested from early November to late April and satisfies demand when the dominant California crop has not yet reached maturity for harvest. The recent outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 tied to romaine lettuce was reported at the end of the Arizona harvest season, so romaine lettuce is no longer being harvested and shipped from this region. Following the outbreak, average retail prices of romaine lettuce have declined somewhat compared to the same period a year ago, possibly reflecting curtailed demand. This chart is drawn from data discussed in the ERS Vegetables and Pulses Outlook released in April 2018.

Monthly U.S. dried garlic trade spiked temporarily in 2016/17

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

In late 2016 to early 2017, the amount of dried garlic imported to and exported from the United States rose above historical levels. The spike in U.S. garlic trade was precipitated by events in China, the world’s largest producer of garlic. Relatively low supply and high fresh garlic prices in 2016 incentivized Chinese farmers to increase production in 2017, ultimately leading to excess supply and a decline in global fresh garlic prices. This oversupply also impacted the market for dried garlic, viewed as a high value-added outlet for fresh garlic, and international prices for dried garlic fell as well. U.S. imports began to climb around May 2016 and peaked in January 2017 at approximately 98 million pounds. Before and during this period, China accounted for over 95 percent of all dried garlic imported into the United States. U.S. exports of dried garlic also rose during this period. Much of the growth in U.S. dried garlic shipments was to markets such as Peru, India, Portugal, and Greece, where U.S. exports were previously limited due to typically high competition from China. As global prices rose back to normal levels by mid-2017, U.S. dried garlic trade returned to historical levels. This chart appears in the ERS Vegetables and Pulses Outlook newsletter released in April 2018.

Americans consume nearly 3 pounds of fresh mushrooms per year

Monday, November 27, 2017

Over 97 percent of the mushrooms produced in the United States fall under the genus known as Agaricus, which includes the common White Button mushrooms, often seen in grocery stores and salad bars, as well as portobello and crimini mushrooms. While some mushrooms are grown for processing uses (canned, dried, and frozen), 88 percent are sold in the fresh market. On average, Americans consume roughly 3 pounds of fresh Agaricus mushrooms each year. Of the amount consumed, 87 percent is produced domestically in States like California and Pennsylvania. A growing share is imported, moving from 4 percent of domestic consumption in 2000 to 13 percent in 2017. Mushroom consumption increased each year since 2013, but fell slightly in 2017, with domestic production falling by just over 1 percent. Even with that decline, however, per capita consumption of Agaricus mushrooms increased by nearly 22 percent since 2010. Additionally, modest increases in wholesale prices since 2016 resulted in increased value to producers despite the reduced output. This chart appears in the ERS Vegetables and Pulses Outlook newsletter, released in October 2017.

Pumpkin production in Illinois rebounds, while New York drops further in 2016

Monday, October 30, 2017

With Halloween soon approaching, many consumers spent the weekend searching for pumpkins at the nearest pumpkin patch. Pumpkin production is widely dispersed throughout the United States. All U.S. States produce some pumpkins, but according to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture, about one-half of pumpkin acres were grown in six States. Illinois is consistently the Nation’s largest pumpkin producer, the majority of which are used for pies and other processed foods. Record rainfall devastated the State’s pumpkin crop in 2015, but Illinois production rebounded in 2016. All other reported States produce primarily decorative (or carving) pumpkins, and all but New York saw around 20 percent decreases in production during 2012-16. New York production stands out, however, having dropped 50 percent over the time period. While 2017 production has not yet been surveyed, media reports indicate a strong Midwest crop but challenges for some growers in New York and Pennsylvania who were hit with cold, wet weather that is less optimal for pumpkin growth. This chart is drawn from data presented in the ERS Pumpkins: Background & Statistics page.

Americans’ consumption of vegetables and legumes has moved closer to recommendations

Friday, September 8, 2017

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people on a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet consume 2½ cup-equivalents (cup-eq) of vegetables per day. A cup-eq of vegetables is generally equal to 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens. The Guidelines include recommended amounts of five vegetable subgroups (dark green, red and orange, legumes, starchy, and other) and advise Americans to consume a variety of vegetables from each subgroup. According to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data (a proxy for consumption), the average American consumed 1.72 cup-eq of vegetables and legumes per day in 2015—69 percent of the daily recommendation for a 2,000 calorie-per-day-diet—and up from 1.49 cup eq in 1970. While starchy vegetable consumption declined by 17 percent (mostly due to drops in fresh potatoes and canned corn), daily dark green vegetable consumption grew from 0.02 cup-eq in 1970 to 0.15 cup-eq in 2015. Romaine and leaf lettuce and fresh broccoli were the largest contributors, reflecting the growing demand for salads and fresh vegetables. Consumption of legumes and other vegetables increased, closing in on the Guidelines’ recommendations. Red and orange vegetable consumption grew to 0.23 cup-eq per day in 2015, but is still just 30 percent of the recommendation. The data for this chart are from ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, updated July 26, 2017.

Processed potato availability has fallen over time

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Processed vegetables make up roughly 44 percent of total per capita availability of vegetables in the United States. Potatoes (including frozen, chips, dehydrated, and canned) are the leading processed vegetable commodity available per capita. In 2016, there were over 75 pounds of processed potatoes available per capita. Since 1970, availability of processed potatoes has surpassed fresh potatoes in the United States. Spurred by the innovation of frozen French fry processing techniques in the 1950s and the increasing popularity of fast food chains, processed potatoes have composed 70 percent of total U.S. potato availability since 2010. The trend for processed potato availability has been sloping downward, however, since its peak in the mid to late 1990s. This gradual decline may indicate that Americans are shifting away from consuming processed vegetables in general. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans cautions consumers from consuming excess saturated fats and sodium. This chart is adapted from a chart in the Amber Waves article, "Newly Updated ERS Data Shows 2016 Production, Trade Volume, and Per Capita Availability of Vegetables and Pulses," released in August 2017.

Per capita fresh vegetable availability has grown from the 1970s to the present

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Decade averages of per capita availability of fresh and processed vegetables show that fresh vegetable availability increased from around 90 pounds per person in the 1970s to a high of almost 150 pounds per person in the 2000s. Although per capita fresh vegetable availability is down slightly in the current decade (data are through 2016), average availability is still well above the 1990s and earlier decades. Processed vegetable per capita availability tells a slightly different story; remaining relatively flat between 110 and 130 pounds per capita since the 1970s. Since the peak in the 1990s, processed vegetable availability has trended downwards. For both fresh and processed vegetable categories, tomatoes and potatoes are the most popular. In the processed category, tomato and potato use have declined steadily since the mid-1990s. Additionally, since 1990, the per capita availability of fresh tomatoes has been steadily increasing, which suggests that some people may be shifting from processed to fresh preparations. This chart appears in the Amber Waves article, "Newly Updated ERS Data Shows 2016 Production, Trade Volume, and Per Capita Availability of Vegetables and Pulses," released in August 2017.

U.S. pulse crops set for another record year for acres planted

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Led by expectations of surging seedings for lentils and chickpeas in 2017, aggregate U.S. area planted to pulse (the dry edible seed of a legume plant) crops is projected to reach a new record high of more than 4.06 million acres. Chickpea planted area is forecast to rise to nearly 500,000 acres, an increase of more than 53 percent compared to the prior year. This production growth is due to its sustained price strength and favorable returns relative to other crops such as wheat and corn. Lentil planted area is expected to expand by 13 percent to 1.055 million acres. In 10 years’ time, lentil planted area has more than tripled, boosted by expanding sales to India and growing domestic consumption, both of which have supported prices and encouraged plantings. Dry bean area planted, exclusive of garbanzo bean (also known as chickpeas) is projected to have a modest increase, up about 2 percent to 1.368 million acres and just slightly below the 10-year average area planted of 1.415 million acres. Dry peas are the only pulse crop projected to have fewer acres seeded in 2017. This chart appears in the ERS Vegetables and Pulses Outlook report, released on April 28, 2017.

Imports of fresh and processed vegetables make up an increasing share of domestic consumption

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trade plays a vital part in both fresh and processed vegetable markets, one that has increased over time. The United States imports a larger amount of fresh and processed vegetables than it exports. This is in contrast with U.S. agricultural trade as a whole, which consistently runs a trade surplus (exports exceed imports). In 2000, fresh and processed vegetable imports represented 12 percent of domestic use each. By 2016, the import share of domestic use had increased to over 30 percent for fresh vegetables and 22 percent for processed vegetables. The export market for vegetables has grown at a slower pace. Processed vegetable exports doubled between 2000 and 2016 from 7 to 14 percent of domestic use, while fresh vegetables decreased from 7 percent in 2000 to 6 in 2016. Growth in vegetable and other food commodity imports has been driven by expanding domestic demand and reduced trade costs like shipping and tariffs. Consumer preferences for year-round availability of seasonal foods and for vegetables not commonly grown domestically have also played a role in rising import shares. Cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers are predominantly supplied by imports, while cauliflower has the largest export share. This chart is drawn from data in the annual ERS Vegetables and Pulses Yearbook tables updated in April 2017.

Annual per capita vegetable and legume availability reached 424 pounds in 2004

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Vegetables and legumes are widely recognized as a good source of many vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. According to ERS’s food availability data, the supply of vegetables and legumes available to eat on a per person basis grew from 328 pounds in 1970 to 424 pounds in 2004. Between 2004 and 2014, per person vegetable and legume (pulses and beans) availability fell by 39 pounds to 385 pounds. Fresh and processed potatoes—frozen, canned, dehydrated, and chips—accounted for 59 percent of the 2004-14 decline. Over the longer period of 1970 to 2014, fresh vegetable availability rose by 20 percent; fresh bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, broccoli, and cucumbers combined grew by 36 pounds during that time. Per person availability of canned, frozen, and other processed vegetables and legumes increased from 174 pounds in 1970 to 225 pounds in 1998, then began a decline to 200 pounds in 2014. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, U.S. Trends in Food Availability and a Dietary Assessment of Loss-Adjusted Food Availability, 1970-2014, released on January 27, 2017.

Production of sweet potatoes—a Thanksgiving favorite—is on the rise

Thursday, November 17, 2016

U.S. production of sweet potatoes has increased substantially in recent years, achieving a new record-high of 3.1 billion pounds in 2015—a 4.8- percent increase over 2014’s 3.0 billion pounds. The largest producer of sweet potatoes in the United States is North Carolina which harvested 1.6 billion pounds in 2015 and has been responsible for most of the gains in recent years. California, Mississippi, and Louisiana are also notable sweet potato-producing States. In 2014 and 2015, sweet potato production rose by an average of about 6 percent per year, bolstered by growth in exports and domestic demand. Between 2000 and 2015, domestic consumption of sweet potatoes grew considerably with per capita availability rising from 4.2 pounds to 7.5 pounds. The marked rise in domestic demand has been encouraged by promotion of the tuber’s health benefits. Sweet potatoes are a good source of fiber and vitamin C, and they are an especially rich source of vitamin A. This chart is drawn from the ERS Vegetables and Pulses Outlook report and the ERS Vegetables and Pulses data.

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