Market Outlook

Growing vegetable imports and record domestic pulse production drive increased availability

Vegetables and Pulses Outlook: April 2017

Vegetables and Pulses Data: Yearbook Tables

U.S. production of commercial vegetables and dry pulses (including mushrooms, potatoes, and sweet potatoes) totaled 129 billion pounds in 2016, down less than 1 percent from the previous year. However, production value at $19 billion was down 7 percent from a year earlier due to decreasing domestic prices for most fresh-market and processing vegetables. The three leading crops, including fresh and processed, were potatoes (44 billion pounds), tomatoes (29 billion pounds), and lettuce (9 billion pounds), which combined accounted for approximately two-thirds of total production volume.

While the area planted to vegetables in 2017 is expected to remain flat, U.S. farmers are projected to increase area planted to lentils and chickpeas for the third year in a row. Total lentil area is projected at a record 1.055 million acres, an increase of 122,000 acres over the plantings estimated for 2016 and more than double the number of acres planted in 2015, when seedings began the recent rally. Lentil planted area has more than tripled over the last 10 years, boosted by expanding sales to India and growing domestic consumption, both of which have supported prices and encouraged plantings.

Area planted to dry beans, exclusive of garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas, and reported in the previous section), is projected to have a modest increase in 2017, up about 2 percent to 1.368 million acres and marginally lower than the 10-year average planted area of 1.415 million acres.

International Trade

Vegetables and Pulses Outlook: April 2017

Vegetables and Pulses Data: Yearbook Tables

Exports of U.S. vegetables increase moderately while pulses exports see rapid growth

The U.S. vegetable trade deficit widened in 2016 as a strong dollar and weak global demand continued to slow export growth. In 2016, fresh vegetable exports rose 6 percent to 4.2 billion pounds over the previous year and processing vegetable exports fell 1 percent to 17.1 billion pounds.

During the same period, strong demand for pulses drove exports up by nearly 21 percent.  Expansion in dry pea, lentil, and chickpea cultivation has been spurred by strong demand from export markets, notably, from an increasingly important trading partner, India. In 2015 and 2016, the monsoon season in India brought below-average precipitation and resulted in a relatively small pulse crop harvest. To supplement domestic production, the Indian Government and private traders expanded imports of many sustenance goods, including wheat and pulses such as lentils. Traditional suppliers Canada and Australia also benefited from growth in trade with India; however, the United States emerged as an important secondary provider of largely high-quality green and yellow lentils.

Domestic vegetable availability continues to rise driven by imports

Despite the modest decrease in U.S. domestic vegetable production, domestic availability increased slightly in 2016 due to the robust expansion of imports and only a slight increase in exports. According to preliminary data, per capita availability (previously called disappearance, or use) of vegetables and pulses in the United States totaled 383 pounds in 2016, up 2 percent from 2015. Canning vegetables, particularly tomato products, accounted for the majority of the increase in domestic vegetable availability between 2015 and 2016.  Imports accounted for 31 percent of fresh vegetables and 22 percent of processed vegetables available for consumption in 2016.

The availability data measure supplies of commodities moving through production and trade channels for domestic use. The data do not directly measure food intake, but they serve as useful indicators for understanding trends over time. In addition, the data are not adjusted for spoilage and other losses. Thus, when used in this manner, the data provide an upper-bound on the amount of food available for domestic use and consumption.

Growth in domestic demand, especially for chickpea-containing products such as hummus, has helped to support prices and encourage expanded proportional and absolute growth in production. Increased domestic supplies have lifted the per capita availability forecast for chickpeas for the last 2 years.