California: Monterey County crop report shows drop in fresh produce income

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California: Monterey County crop report shows drop in fresh produce income

A major Californian region for fresh vegetable and strawberry production saw a downfall in total crop values last year, but export volumes rose significantly. 

In the "Monterey County 2016 Crop Report", the county's Agricultural Commissioner Eric Lauritzen said the 9.5% fall in production value to US$4.25 billion was mainly the result of market conditions.

"Eight of the County’s top ten crops had notable decreases, largely due to low market volatility, stable production, but stagnant prices," Lauritzen said.

"Head lettuce and leaf lettuce declined nearly 25% and 10% respectively.

"Total nursery crop value declined by 12%, in part because many greenhouses are being transitioned to medical Cannabis production. The value of our strawberry crop is nearly unchanged from the previous year."

By sector, vegetable crop values were down 13.6% at US$2.8 billion while fruits and nuts had an increase of US$1.056 billion.

Despite a US$245 million reduction in value, lettuce remained the county's leading crop with sales of US$1.26 billion, followed by strawberries (US$724.6 million), broccoli (US$391.8 million), nursery crops (US$276.4 million) and wine grapes (US$238.9 million). 

Carrots were one of a few crops that bucked the downward trend.

Next in line were cauliflower (US$189.6 million), celery (US$161.8 million), miscellaneous vegetables (US$158.4 million) and spinach (US$132.7 million).

With the exception of wine grapes which rose two spots, the production value order in the top 10 was more or less the same, but there was some interesting changes further down the list.

Brussels sprouts rose 48% to US$46.3 million, jumping from 20th position to 13th, with a large uptick in volume offsetting a 19% drop in value per unit.

Carrot values rose substantially too, at a rate of 29% up to US$34.3 million, with greater volume and improved prices. 

Growers clearly responded to the booming cauliflower trend with acreage up by 12.7%, but unfortunately the crop value was down 20%.

Kale actually dropped a spot from 19th to 20th  with US$32.99 million, but its valuet was actually up 1.5% with less production per acre and higher values per unit.

In terms of fruit crops, avocado production per acre more than doubled in the county and volume was up 163% at 1,320MT. Meanwhile, value more than doubled as well to US$3.2 million.

In berries, as highlighted by the commissioner, strawberry values were more or less stable, while raspberry value was up 3.6% at US$41.1 million.

The county's lemon value declined by 23% to US$41.18 million. 

Export jump

While the report does not indicate export returns, volume-wise the county performed well in 2016 with a 16.6% overall rise in export shipments of vegetables, fruits and seeds.

On a crop-by-crop basis, lettuce exports led the way with a 40% increase to 524 million pounds, while notable rises were also seen for celery (+24%; 53 milion pounds), cauliflower (+39%; 40.7 million pounds) and raspberries (+15%; 3.8 million pounds).

However, two of the top four produce export crops saw declines in volume, most notably strawberries (-22%; 67.6 million pounds) and broccoli (-44%; 46.6 million pounds).



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