Pumpkins: Background & Statistics

Pumpkin production is widely dispersed throughout the United States, with crop conditions varying greatly by region. All States produce some pumpkins, but in 2017, about 40 percent of pumpkin acres were harvested in the top six pumpkin producing States by weight (2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture, USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)). Every year USDA surveys top pumpkin producing States and publishes the data the following year. Anecdotal reports from growers and agricultural extension offices suggest strong pumpkin crops for Illinois and California in 2020.

In 2019, despite reduced acreage, Illinois maintained its leading position, still harvesting nearly twice as many pumpkin acres as any of the other top States at 10,900 acres. California, Indiana, Michigan, and Virginia averaged between 4,700 and 5,600 acres. (All pumpkin data for Texas in 2019 is unavailable from NASS to avoid disclosing data for individual operations. Data from previous years shows that Texas has been an important pumpkin-producing State.)

Illinois harvests the largest share of pumpkin acreage among all States and an even larger share of processing acres. Almost 80 percent of pumpkin acres in Illinois are devoted to pie filling or other processing uses, compared with about 3 percent in Michigan and even less in California and Virginia. This difference in the type of pumpkin most commonly grown in Illinois helps explain differences in yield and price between Illinois and other top States.

Yields vary substantially between States and between years within a State depending on pumpkin varieties and growing conditions. On average, Illinois grows about 40,000 pounds per acre (predominantly for processing), California and Texas grow about 30,000 pounds per acre, and Indiana, Michigan, and Virginia grow about 20,000 pounds per acre. Yield can vary each year from as much as 13,500 pounds in the case of Texas from 2017 to 2018 or as little as 1,500 pounds in the case of Indiana from 2018 to 2019.

In 2019, farmers in the top five pumpkin-producing States (not including Texas) harvested more than 800 million pounds of pumpkins. Combining their lead in acreage and yield, at 420 million pounds in 2019, Illinois produces three and a half times the amount of pumpkins as the second most productive State. In 2019, California and Indiana each produced about 120 million pounds of pumpkins, while Virginia produced about 90 million pounds, and Michigan produced about 80 million pounds. Among these States, Michigan and Virginia had the lowest yields in 2019.

Annual U.S. per capita availability of fresh pumpkins averaged about 6 pounds over 2017 to 2019, similar to levels during the late 1990’s. Per capita availability of fresh pumpkins was consistently at 4 to 5 pounds from 2000 to 2014. Beginning in 2016, fresh pumpkin per capita availability increased to more than 6 pounds. Reduced availability in 2015 corresponds to a drop in domestic production that was mostly due to the effects of poor weather on Illinois production.

All States see year-to-year changes in the price of pumpkin received by growers. From 2017 to 2019 California, Indiana, Michigan, and Virginia ranged from about $11 to $20 per 100 pounds of pumpkins. In 2017, Texas received the highest price of any State over the three-year period at $26.80 per 100 pounds, but in 2018 Texas prices returned to levels very close to other States besides Illinois. Illinois growers sell their pumpkins mainly for processing, and those types of pumpkins are priced lower than jack-o’-lantern pumpkins. This means that Illinois producers consistently received the lowest price—ranging from about $3 to $4 per 100 pounds on average.

From its high in 2017, the value of Illinois pumpkin production has generally decreased over the past three years due in large part to reduced acreage. Even with this decrease, Illinois moved from sixth in pumpkin value of production in 2018, to second in 2019 (not including Texas which did not have available data for 2019). In 2017 and 2018, Texas had the second highest value of pumpkin production behind Illinois and California, respectively. California emerged as the top pumpkin producer by value in 2018.

Pumpkin supplies from most States are targeted toward the seasonal fresh market for ornamental uses and home processing. Growers mainly produce jack-o'-lantern type pumpkins (Howden), but demand for specialty pumpkins—like White Howden, Blue, Cinderella, and Fairytale—continues to expand as consumers look for new and interesting varieties. In the second week of September 2020, retail prices were down 30 percent from the same time last year, but every week since, current-year retail prices have exceed last-year prices by 1 to 14 percent. As of the fourth week in October, retail prices for jack-o’-lantern type pumpkins (Howden) averaged $4.11 per pumpkin (down from $4.48 last year during the same week) and wholesale prices averaged $156 per 24-inch bin.

(Wholesale and retail advertised prices will be updated during the 2020 fall season as they become available.)

Table 1. U.S. wholesale price for medium-size pumpkins, various types, $ per 24-inch bin, September to October 2020
Week, 2020 Pie White Howden Howden Blue Cinderella Fairytale
September, 1st Week 200.00 - - - - -
September, 2nd Week 200.00 - 156.00 - - -
September, 3rd Week 200.00 177.50 156.00 200.00 212.50 225.00
September, 4th Week 196.00 175.00 156.00 200.00 212.50 225.00
October, 1st Week 196.00 175.00 156.00 200.00 212.50 225.00
October, 2nd Week 192.50 175.00 179.00 200.00 212.50 225.00
October, 3rd Week 192.50 175.00 179.00 200.00 212.50 225.00
October, 4th Week 192.50 175.00 156.00 200.00 212.50 225.00

Note: Price is a weekly average of all quoted markets (excluding organic) for the listed type.

Source: Market News, Terminal Market Report. USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

Table 2: U.S. advertised retail prices, $ per Howden pumpkin, September to October 2020
Date 2020 2019
September, 1st Week 5.00 -
September, 2nd Week 3.80 5.47
September, 3rd Week 4.83 4.65
September, 4th Week 4.46 4.40
October, 1st Week 3.90 3.42
October, 2nd Week 4.10 4.00
October, 3rd Week 3.63 3.63
October, 4th Week 4.11 4.48

Note: Price is a weekly average of all quoted markets (excluding organic) for the listed type.

Source: Market News, Retail Report. USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).