Fresh vegetable production value in the United States was down 11% in 2020, according to the USDA Vegetable and Pulses April Outlook.
Spinach experienced the biggest decline, dropping 28.7% a year after increasing 49.8%. Cauliflower dropped 25%. A year after increasing 22.8%, cabbage production dropped 18.2%. Bell peppers dropped 11.2%, while Carrots declined 7.1%. Dry onions also dropped 14.5%.
Sweet corn experienced the biggest increase with an 18.5% jump from 2019. Sweet potatoes also increased 9.7%
First Quarter 2021 Prices Down
The Producer Price Index (PPI) reveals fresh vegetable producer prices decreased by 8% through the first quarter of 2021. Lettuce was down 23%; sweet potatoes down 8%; tomatoes down 46%; and broccoli down 8%.
Consumers also demanded more organic vegetables. First quarter non-organic prices for fresh cucumbers were down 44%, while organic cucumber retail prices rose by 138%. Prices for organic white round potatoes increased by 151% from 50 cents to $1.25 per pound. However, prices for non-organic white round potatoes increased by just 1.9%.
Imports Increased, Exports Decreased
The U.S. continues to import vegetables, increasing by 3% in 2020. However, exports were down 4% in 2020. The U.S. imported 4.05 billion pounds of tomatoes in 2020, a 1% increase from 2019. There were 2.19 billion pounds of cucumbers imported in 2020, a 2% increase from 2019. Bell peppers also increased 3% to 1.66 billion pounds in 2020.
Broccoli imports increased by 10% to 542 million pounds in 2020. Lettuce imports also increased by 4% to 821 pounds.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported $22 billion weather events, which cost the U.S. $95 billion. Wildfires in California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado were devastating.
Excessive rains at the end of the growing season in 2020 hurt sweet potato yields in North Carolina, the largest producer of the crop.
A record-breaking number of hurricanes in 2020 affected sweet potato production in Louisiana as well. More than 660 acres of sweet potatoes were lost in the state due to hurricanes/tropical depressions and excessive moisture/rain.