Vegetables and Melons Outlook - April 2011

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In 2010, per capita disappearance (net domestic use) of all vegetables, melons, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pulse crops, and mushrooms rose slightly to 420 pounds. Increased domestic disappearance of fresh-market vegetables and melons, dry edible beans, and sweet potatoes outweighed reduced use of processing vegetables and potatoes. Record high watermelon supply and disappearance led to a 1-percent gain in per capita melon use. Per capita vegetable disappearance is expected to fall slightly in 2011, largely because of reduced use and higher prices for potatoes and pulse crops.

Given much higher shipping-point prices this winter, the fresh vegetable retail price index averaged 7 percent above that of a year earlier during the first quarter. Although retail prices for most of the major components increased, lettuce was the main driver with a 17-percent increase. Although variable yields and seasonally declining imports could keep upward pressure on some vegetable markets through mid-May, U.S. spring season grower/shipper prices for commercial fresh vegetables are expected to average about 10 percent below the high levels experienced a year earlier.

Gary Lucier
Lewrene Glaser
USDA Economic Research Service