ERS Charts of Note
Friday, February 14, 2020
At $64.7 billion, specialty crops comprised one-third of U.S. crop receipts and one-sixth of receipts for all agricultural products in 2017. Many specialty crops are labor-intensive in production, harvesting, or processing. For example, harvest often requires workers to accurately distinguish ripe and unripe fruits and vegetables and gently pick, sort, or package the fruit or vegetable by hand without damage. A long-term decline in the supply of farm labor in the U.S. has encouraged producers to select less labor-intensive crops, invest in labor-saving technologies, and develop strategies to increase labor productivity. A number of USDA programs support the development and use of automation or mechanization in the production and processing of U.S. specialty crops. From 2008-2018 these programs in the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) funded $287.7 million toward 213 projects to develop and enhance the use of automation or mechanization in specialty crop production and processing. Projects covered a broad spectrum of technologies, including job aid and machinery automation; machine learning and data analysis; mechanical harvesting and processing; precision agriculture; remote sensing and drones; and sensors. Each of the USDA programs are designed differently to achieve unique objectives, although each program addresses the development and use of automation or mechanization in specialty crops in some form. The data in this chart are available in the February 2020 ERS report, Developing Automation and Mechanization for Specialty Crops: A Review of U.S. Department of Agriculture Programs.
Monday, February 3, 2020
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that annually, over $161 billion of food at the retail and consumer stage of the supply chain goes uneaten. Food loss also occurs on farms and in the pre-retail distribution channels—the Food and Agricultural Organization estimated 30 percent of losses in fruits and vegetables occur in these earlier stages. USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) recently examined the substantial role that expected costs, revenues, and risks play in food loss at the pre-retail level. Factors influencing food loss include price volatility: for example, vegetables have exhibited a relative variation in price more than 20 times that of grains used for feed. When prices fall below the cost of production, it becomes unprofitable for growers to advance produce through the supply chain. Alternatively, when prices rise, growers harvest more intensively, and may have the incentive to send lower-cosmetic-quality product to market, which can then be subject to increased loss further down the supply chain. Other economic factors that influence the level of food loss include labor cost and availability, availability of cold-chain infrastructure, aesthetic standards, consumer preferences, contract requirements, and policies related to the harvest and marketing of fresh produce. This chart appears in the recent ERS report, Economic Drivers of Food Loss at the Farm and Pre-Retail Sectors: A Look at the Produce Supply Chain in the United States.
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
With the onset of cold weather the U.S. apple harvest for the 2019/20 marketing year (August-July) is wrapping up. The 2019/20 U.S. apple crop is forecast at 10.6 billion pounds, up 4 percent from a year ago as output gains in Western States (largely Washington and California) outweigh declines in Eastern States. The top apple State, Washington, expects a 7.2-billion pound crop of excellent quality, up 7 percent from last year. While this increase signals higher fresh-market supplies, flat-to-slightly-smaller crops in Michigan, New York, and Virginia may hinder gains in processed production. Overall, larger production indicates a possible downward pressure on apple-grower prices during the 2019/20 season-relative to 2018/19, likely boosting overall demand, especially in the fresh market. Pricing early in 2019/20, however, was supported by relatively strong late-2018/19 fresh apple grower prices due to tighter supplies. This chart is based on the ERS Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook newsletter, released September 2019.
Monday, November 25, 2019
Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and although cranberries nowadays are consumed year round and in many product forms, this holiday remains a time of year notable for cranberries and other traditional staples of the celebration. Despite a rainy spring, U.S. cranberry production is forecast to reach 904 million pounds (or 9.04 million barrels) in 2019, up 1 percent from a year ago. If achieved, U.S. production will be the second-largest in recent years, following record output of 963 million pounds in 2016. Most major cranberry-producing States anticipate slight increases in production (Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and New Jersey), with the exception of Oregon. Nearly steady to slight increases in crop size are forecasted for Wisconsin (560 million pounds) and Massachusetts (230 million pounds), the top two cranberry States. Under the Federal marketing order, the Cranberry Marketing Committee reports that volume-control measures implemented during the 2018/19 marketing season (September-August) and overall increased sales have helped reduce U.S. cranberry inventories. Prospects for ample domestic production again this year will likely be offset by lower carryover inventories from last season, tempering likely downward pressure on 2019/20 (September-August) cranberry grower prices. This chart is based on the ERS Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook newsletter, released September 2019.
Thursday, August 22, 2019
Development of Mexico’s avocado export sector prompted many changes in the U.S. market. USDA initially banned imports of Mexican avocados from 1914 to 1993 to prevent entry of avocado seed weevils into the United States. With the implementation of a USDA phytosanitary work plan from 1993 to 2007 that allowed Hass avocados from certain municipalities in the Mexican State of Michoacán to enter progressively more U.S. States, deliveries from Mexico increased rapidly, reaching 781,000 metric tons (annual average) during 2015-17. Ready access to Mexican product—along with advertising campaigns for avocados in general and Mexican avocados in particular—led to a sharp increase in U.S. avocado consumption. Between 1991-93 and 2015-17, avocado deliveries (imports and domestic production) increased from 193,000 metric tons to 1.1 million metric tons (annual averages). In response to a dramatic increase in foreign competition, U.S. producers have focused mainly on supplying the domestic market in months when imports from Mexico tend to be lower. A new phytosanitary work plan implemented in 2016 allows fresh avocados to be imported from any Mexican State subject to a systems approach to risk management, consisting of a number of sequential safeguards designed to progressively reduce risk of avocado seed weevils to an insignificant level. This chart is drawn from data discussed in the ERS Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook newsletter released in March 2018. This Chart of Note was originally published October 24, 2018.
Thursday, June 13, 2019
U.S. per capita consumption of blueberries has more than tripled since the mid 2000’s. Availability of blueberries is forecasted to reach record levels in the 2018/19 marketing season, totaling 660 million pounds. Rising U.S. demand over the last two decades has been supported by increased availability from domestic production and imports. Imports, however, have risen more rapidly than domestic production. Imports’ share of the U.S. market rose from 44 percent in 2005 to nearly 60 percent in 2018. Chile has long been the leading source for U.S. blueberry imports, representing over half of all imports between 2008 and 2013. Since then, new markets have emerged and captured an increasing share of the U.S. blueberry import market. Peru and Mexico, for the first time, combined in 2018 to export more blueberries to the United States than Chile. This, coupled with additional imports from countries such as Canada and Argentina, brought Chile’s share of U.S. blueberry imports to its lowest levels since 2005, at 38 percent. Sourced mainly from the Southern Hemisphere, the majority of blueberry imports occurs during the off-season for domestic production. The U.S. production season begins in April and runs through the summer into early fall. This chart appears in the bi-annual ERS Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook newsletter released in March 2019.
Friday, May 31, 2019
Over the past five decades, Americans’ annual consumption of tree nuts has grown from 1.38 pounds per person in 1970 to 3.69 pounds in 2016, according to ERS’s Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series (a proxy for consumption). Almond consumption experienced the largest growth, increasing by 1.35 pounds per person from 1970 to 2016. Consumption of pecans and walnuts averaged a little over one-third of a pound per person, remaining relatively stable throughout the years. Pistachios have steadily increased in popularity since 1970, reaching 0.33 pound per person in 2016. Consumption of other nuts (cashews, Brazil nuts, chestnuts, pine nuts, and many nut mixes) doubled, reaching almost a pound per person in 2016. Cashews make up the largest share of this grouping. Promotional programs that tout the nutritional value of nuts, including their beneficial levels of vitamin E and omega fatty acids, and increased awareness and demand for nut milks have likely contributed to the growth in per capita nut consumption. The data for this chart come from the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series in ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
Thursday, April 18, 2019
April is National Pecan Month, a time for pecan pies, candied pecans, and other sweet treats. In terms of U.S. agricultural production, pecans rank fourth among tree nuts behind almonds, walnuts, and pistachios. USDA estimates U.S. pecan production for the 2018/19 marketing year to be 221 million pounds, 27 percent below 2017/18. If the 2018/19 estimate is accurate, production will be the lowest in a decade. The small crop reflects declines in all of the eight reported pecan-producing States, with the biggest losses in Georgia and Texas—both major pecan producers. After ranking as the top pecan-producing State for the past several years, Georgia will relinquish that spot to New Mexico in 2018/19. Estimated at only 56 million pounds, Georgia’s pecan production in 2018/19 is down 48 percent from 2017/18 and at its lowest level since 2006/07. This decline is attributed mainly to the damage of Hurricane Michael, which ravaged much of the State’s pecan-growing region in October 2018, downing trees, breaking tree limbs, and blowing nuts off the trees. Apart from Hurricane Michael’s impact on Georgia’s pecan crop, New Mexico and Texas production is estimated at 90 million pounds (down 2 percent from 2017/18) and 28 million pounds (down 43 percent) for 2018/19, respectively. The steep decline in Texas production is due to pecan trees following an alternate bearing production cycle in which production is higher in alternating years. This chart appears in the ERS Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook newsletter, released in March 2019.
Friday, April 12, 2019
U.S. citrus production in the 2018/19 marketing year (October–September) is rebounding from previous-year lows. The current citrus crop forecast of 8.02 million tons for 2018/19 is up 31 percent from the previous season, reflecting expected expanded national production across all major citrus commodities, excluding lemons, and overall larger crops in the four major producing States. The rebound is expected to be greatest in Florida, recovering from crop losses caused by Hurricane Irma in the 2017/18 season. Orange and grapefruit crops are anticipated to have the largest year-over-year growth in national output, with increases of 42 percent and 24 percent, respectively. However, only orange production is projected higher than the earlier 2016/17 season, suggesting a continued long-term decline in other citrus varieties. Total citrus production still lags behind the levels reached in the early 2010s, when it exceeded 11 million tons. If the 2018/19 citrus production forecast is realized, it would be the first year since 2010/11 that production hasn’t declined. Expected increased 2018/19 supplies are lowering fresh citrus prices in the domestic market. This chart appears in the ERS Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook newsletter, released on March 29, 2019.
Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Cranberries may make a traditional appearance on many tables this Thanksgiving, but strawberries are still America’s favorite berry. According to ERS’s food availability data, 16.8 pounds of berries per person were available for consumption in 2016, up from 6.5 pounds per person in 1990. Improvements in product quality, year-round availability, and convenient packaging, along with increased awareness of the health benefits of eating berries, have contributed to the rise in consumer demand. In 2016, a total of 9.8 pounds of strawberries per person were available for consumption—more than for any other berry. Fresh strawberry availability has steadily increased over the past two decades, climbing from 3.2 pounds per person in 1990 to 8 pounds per person in 2016. Cranberries came in second in 2016 at 3 pounds available per person, representing a 129-percent increase since 1990 that was driven by growth in cranberry juice availability. Blueberries came in third at 2.4 pounds per person in 2016, up from 0.4 pounds in 1990. Most of that increase was in fresh blueberry availability. The data for this chart are from ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, updated October 29, 2018.
Monday, November 19, 2018
From 2015 to 2017, California and Florida accounted for 86 percent and 13 percent of U.S. avocado production, respectively, while the west-central Mexican States of Michoacán and Jalisco accounted for 78 percent and 8 percent, respectively, of Mexican production. A USDA phytosanitary workplan implemented between 1993 and 2007 allowed Hass avocados from certain municipalities in Michoacán to enter increasingly larger portions of the United States, making Michoacán the leading supplier of fresh avocados to the U.S. market. From 2015 to 2017, growers and shippers in Michoacán supplied about 72 percent of total deliveries (imports and domestic production) of fresh avocados in the United States; California supplied about 13 percent. In 2016, the United States implemented a new phytosanitary workplan that allows fresh avocados to be imported from any Mexican State subject to a “systems” approach. That is, farm-specific risk management measures are applied, which together achieve the desired level of phytosanitary protection. Growers in Jalisco are working to meet the requirements of this new workplan in the hope of joining their counterparts in Michoacán in exporting fresh avocados to the United States. This chart is drawn from data discussed in the ERS Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook newsletter released in March 2018.
Wednesday, November 7, 2018
There will be ample cranberry supplies for U.S. consumers this holiday season. U.S. cranberry production in 2018 is forecast at 8.63 million barrels (or 863 million pounds), up 3 percent from a year ago. If achieved, 2018 production will be the third largest in history; the record of 963 million pounds was produced in 2016. Wisconsin is the leading producer of cranberries, accounting for about half of total area harvested over the past 3 years. The State’s production represents nearly two-thirds of the national total. Despite some frost damage, this year’s production in Wisconsin is anticipated to be 550 million pounds, up 2 percent from last year and the State’s third largest following record output of 613 million pounds in 2016 (and 602 million in 2013). Larger-than-usual crops are also expected in other top-producing States, except Massachusetts—the second largest producer—where weeks of dry weather limited berry size, causing a slight reduction in output. Ample production and large stocks in storage will likely continue to put pressure on cranberry grower prices during the 2018/19 marketing season (September-August). This chart is based on ERS Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook newsletter, released September 2018.
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Although Hurricane Michael weakened to a Category 3 storm as it swept through southwest and central Georgia, the heavy rains and powerful winds have caused uncertainty about the State’s pecan crop in 2018. Some farmers reported large amounts of pecans blown from trees and many trees blown over, while other producers reported limb and debris cleanup that will be costly and delay the harvest. Producing the most pecans of any U.S. State, Georgia accounts for over one-third of total production. Before the hurricane, USDA forecast that Georgia would produce 110 million pounds of the national projected total of 289 million pounds of pecans in 2018. Although hard data are not yet available on the hurricane’s impact on Georgia’s pecan crop, the 2018 harvest will likely produce less than expected. Despite Georgia’s expected losses, the State’s total is unlikely to fall below the 85-million-pound projected total of New Mexico (the second-largest pecan-producing State) for 2018. This chart is drawn from data discussed in the ERS Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook newsletter, released in September 2018.
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Development of Mexico’s avocado export sector prompted many changes in the U.S. market. USDA initially banned imports of Mexican avocados from 1914 to 1993 to prevent entry of avocado seed weevils into the United States. With the implementation of a USDA phytosanitary work plan from 1993 to 2007 that allowed Hass avocados from certain municipalities in the Mexican State of Michoacán to enter progressively more U.S. States, deliveries from Mexico increased rapidly, reaching 781,000 metric tons (annual average) during 2015-17. Ready access to Mexican product—along with advertising campaigns for avocados in general and Mexican avocados in particular—led to a sharp increase in U.S. avocado consumption. Between 1991-93 and 2015-17, avocado deliveries (imports and domestic production) increased from 193,000 metric tons to 1.1 million metric tons (annual averages). In response to a dramatic increase in foreign competition, U.S. producers have focused mainly on supplying the domestic market in months when imports from Mexico tend to be lower. A new phytosanitary work plan implemented in 2016 allows fresh avocados to be imported from any Mexican State subject to a systems approach to risk management, consisting of a number of sequential safeguards designed to progressively reduce risk of avocado seed weevils to an insignificant level. This chart is drawn from data discussed in the ERS Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook newsletter released in March 2018.
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Celebrating National Watermelon Day this Friday with a big slice of watermelon will be good for your health and for your food budget. ERS recently calculated average prices paid by consumers in 2016 for 62 fresh and processed fruits measured in cup equivalents. A cup equivalent is the edible portion that will generally fit in a 1-cup measuring cup; 1/2 cup for raisins and other dried fruits. Fresh watermelon at 20 cents per cup equivalent and apple juice (made from concentrate) at 26 cents per cup equivalent were the lowest priced fruits, while fresh blackberries, fresh raspberries, and canned cherries were the priciest. Twenty-nine fruits cost less than 80 cents per cup equivalent. Mechanical versus manual harvesting, distance the fruit travels to the store, perishability, and multiple other factors all play a role in fruit costs per cup equivalent. The data in this chart are from ERS's Fruit and Vegetable Prices data product, updated July 11, 2018.
Monday, July 30, 2018
Per capita use of avocados has tripled since the beginning of the 2000s and now totals just over 7 pounds per person annually in the United States. In the 2017/18 marketing year, total domestic use, defined as net production plus imports minus stocks in cold storage, is projected to match the record high of 2.3 billion pounds set in 2015/16. The rise of the fruit’s availability reflects its growing popularity for use in foods like guacamole and in sandwiches. Increasing consumer awareness of the benefits of “healthy fats,” like the monounsaturated fats found in avocados, has also played a role in its growth. Domestically, avocados are grown in Florida (on average, over 16 percent of total), California (over 80 percent), and Hawaii (less than 1 percent), but net domestic production has not kept up with consumer demand. Nearly all of the growth in per capita use since the mid-2000s has been satisfied by imports, particularly from Mexico, which is the source of the vast majority of total import volume. Chile once supplied a majority of U.S. avocado imports, but it was surpassed by Mexico beginning in 2005. This chart appears in the ERS Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook report released in March 2018.
Monday, June 18, 2018
The essential role of honey bees (Apis mellifera) for crop pollination is well known in modern agriculture, but for most of human history honey bees were kept primarily for honey production. In 1988, pollination services—renting out bee colonies to pollinate certain crops—produced only a small share of beekeeper revenue, at just under 11 percent. Since then, the value of pollination services has increased sharply. In 2016, pollination service fees represented over 41 percent of total beekeeper revenues and exceeded honey sales. The primary driver in the value increase has been growing demand for almonds, which were responsible for 82 percent of all pollination service fees in 2016. Recent data show almond farmers paid $165 per colony rented over the several-week-long pollination season in 2016, roughly triple the average of $55 for other crops. This chart appears in the ERS Infographic, Pollination Service Fees, released in March 2018.
Friday, May 11, 2018
Per capita U.S. fresh blueberry use has increased to record-breaking levels each year since 2006, reaching 1.79 pounds in 2017. Rising U.S. demand over the last two decades has been supported by increased availability from domestic production and imports. Imports, however, have risen more rapidly than domestic production, climbing to a record 328.3 million pounds in 2016—exceeding domestic production for the first time over the period 1980-2017. Imports’ share of domestic use rose from about 25 percent in the 1980s to over 50 percent in recent years. More than half of total import volume come from Chile; other key suppliers include Canada, Mexico, Peru, and Argentina. Being sourced mainly from the Southern Hemisphere, a majority of the imports occur during the off-season for domestic production. The U.S. production season begins in April and runs through the summer into early fall. This chart appears in the bi-annual ERS Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook newsletter released in March 2018.
Thursday, April 19, 2018
Unlike the fruit and vegetable sectors, the U.S. tree nut industry (as a whole) is a net exporter. While almonds, produced mainly in California, have been exported at high levels for decades, many other tree nuts have expanded the share of domestic supplies sold on the export market. U.S. almond, walnut, pistachio, and hazelnut production are dependent on exports for more than 50 percent of sales, for example. Expanding export demand has driven domestic grower prices higher, although record tree nut production in recent years has stabilized prices for most varieties. The largest markets for U.S. tree nuts include Hong Kong, India, Spain, but trade is widely dispersed across the European Union and Southeast and East Asia. Almonds represented 57 percent of all U.S. tree nut exports, by volume, in 2017. Although exports of tree nuts have grown at a faster rate, domestic use of tree nuts has expanded as well. Domestic use of tree nuts has doubled since 2000, while exports have tripled. This chart appears in the April ERS Amber Waves data feature, "Consumer Demand for Fresh Fruit Drives Increases Across Sector."
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
U.S. citrus production continues to decline. At the current forecast of 6.16 million tons for the 2017/18 marketing year, ERS expects the U.S. citrus crop to drop 21 percent from the previous season. The decline reflects expected reductions in national production across all major citrus commodities and overall smaller crops in the four major-producing States (Florida, California, Texas, and Arizona). The drop in citrus production is expected to be the greatest in Florida, largely driven by crop losses from Hurricane Irma. At the same time, orange and grapefruit crops are anticipated to have the largest declines in national citrus output, with reductions of as much as 25 percent and 22 percent, respectively, if realized. Tight supplies have pushed citrus prices higher in the domestic market. January 2018 prices for fresh oranges, grapefruit, and lemons were at their highest average levels for the month since the 1990s. The long term downward trend in orange production is largely attributable to citrus greening disease, a bacterial disease that can ultimately kill orange trees. The majority of citrus farms in Florida have been battling the disease since the mid-2000s. This chart appears in the bi-annual ERS Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook newsletter, released March 2018.