With fruits performing better than vegetables, lower average retail prices in the third quarter held back sales gains for fresh produce, according to the latest United FreshFacts on Retail.

For the quarter ending Sept. 29, the report showed total produce sales were 1.7% higher than the third quarter of 2011, reflecting prices that were 0.7% lower and volume running 2.4% higher.

Sales of fresh fruit in the third quarter were up 3.1%, with prices off 0.9% and volume up 4%. Vegetables suffered a 2.4% decline in sales, recording average prices that were 1.7% lower than third quarter 2011 and volume that slipped 0.7% compared with year ago.

The report tracks the performance of the top 10 fruit and vegetable commodities and revealed that nine of the top ten fruits showed volume increases in the third quarter 2012 compared with the same period a year ago. Berries, grapes, apples, avocados and specialty fruit showed the biggest sales gains in the fruit category.

Berry sales showed a 8.9% gain, with grapes 8.5% higher and apple 8.7% above the third quarter of 2011.

For vegetables, the report showed that only packaged salads, mushrooms and cucumbers posted modest sales gains between 1% and 2%, while lower prices for potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce and onions pulled sales of those commodities lower compared with a year ago.

Potato sales were 11.8% lower for the quarter, driven down by a 11.1% decline in average retail prices and a 0.8% decline in volume. Sales of lettuce were off 6.8% and sales of tomatoes were 4.9% lower compared with the third quarter of 2011.

Organic produce sales continued to be a bright spot, with organic fruit sales accounting for 3% of all total produce sales and organic vegetables representing 1.8% of all fresh produce sales, according to the report.

Sales of organic fruit were 23% higher than the third quarter of 2011, pushed by a 22.2% rise in volume and a 0.7% increase in volume, according to the report. Organic vegetable sales were up 12.1%, boosted by a 13.1% rise in volume and a 0.9% decline in average prices.

Value-added fruits increased dollar and volume sales by 8.8% and 1.3%, respectively. Growth was driven primarily by fresh-cut fruit, which accounted for roughly three-quarters of value-added fruit dollar share, according to the report.

Value-added vegetables’ growth was tabbed at a 10.2% increase in dollar sales and a 10.6% volume increase.

The report, produced in partnership with the United Fresh Produce Association and Nielsen Perishables Group, is free for United Fresh members and for $50 for nonmembers. For questions about the FreshFacts report, contact Shannon Young, United Fresh education manager, at (202) 303-3400, ext. 405, or syoung@unitedfresh.org.