Statistics released in mid-September from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reveal total fresh vegetable per-capita availability (adjusted for loss) in was 87.7 pounds in 2011, down from 90 pounds in 2010, 95 pounds in 2005 and 98.9 pounds in 2000.
Fresh fruit per-capita availability, also adjusted for loss by USDA, was pegged at 47.8 pounds in 2011, nearly unchanged from 47.6 pounds in 2010 and little different from 47.4 pounds in 2000, according to the USDA.
Per-capita availability includes both domestic and imported fresh vegetables and fruits grown for the U.S. market, subtracting for waste and loss from the grower level to the consumer level.
The data doesn’t reveal the reasons why per-capita availability is declining for vegetables and flat for fruit, said Jeanine Bentley, USDA economist. However, she said some experts speculate that part of the decline may be linked to the fact that some consumers are eating exotic imported vegetables and fruit not tracked by the USDA.
“We don’t have the entire picture,” she said.
Some fresh vegetable commodities have trended strongly higher in per-capita availability in the past decade, according to the USDA.
Bell pepper per-capita availability was 3.86 pounds in 2011, up from 3.77 pounds in 2010 and 2.99 pounds in 2000. Tomato per-capita availability in 2011 was 13.06 pounds, up from 12.93 pounds in 2010 and 11.77 pounds recorded in 2000.
Leaf lettuce showed per-capita availability of 4.75 pounds in 2011, unchanged from 2010 but up strongly from 3.71 pounds in 2000.
Fresh sweet potato availability has climbed from 0.91 pounds per-capita in 2000 to 0.98 pounds in 2005 and 1.54 pounds in 2011, according to the USDA.
Some fresh vegetable commodities showed significant declines. Fresh potato availability dropped from 35.5 pounds per-capita in 2000 to 25.7 pounds in 2011, and head lettuce per-capita statistics slid from 11.95 pounds in 2000 to 7.9 pounds in 2011, according to the USDA.
For individual fresh fruit commodities, the USDA reported that blueberry per-capita availability rose from 0.196 pounds in 2000 to 0.955 pounds in 2011. Fresh avocado availability soared from 0.8 pounds per-capita in 2000 to 1.673 pounds per-capita in 2011, according to the USDA. Fresh strawberry per-capita availability jumped from 2.398 pounds in 2000 to 3.617 pounds in 2011.