(UPDATED COVERAGE June 19) Monterey County crop values hit a record $4.38 billion in 2013, led by strawberries at $869.4 million.
Gross value was up 9%, or $375 million, over the prior year. It’s the fourth time the California county surpassed the $4 billion mark.
Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Eric Lauritzen released his annual report June 17 in Salinas, Calif.
In a local industry long dominated by head and leaf lettuce, strawberries solidified their position with an 11% jump, up about $84 million. That’s a record for the county, where strawberry value has more than doubled since 2005. It was also the top crop in 2012, after initial figures for leaf lettuce were revised downward.
“A long strawberry season and good production with solid prices made a significant impact on our overall crop statistics,” Lauritzen said.
But at $1.2 billion, the lettuce category as a whole still exceeds strawberry value in the county. Lettuce was up 6% despite a small decrease — less than 2% — in acreage to 109,688.
Ten crop types exceeded $100 million:
- Strawberries, $869.4 million
- Leaf lettuce, $659.6 million
- Head lettuce, $550.6 million
- Broccoli, $426.9 million
- Nursery, $312.3 million
- Wine grapes, $226.9 million
- Celery, $217.4 million
- Miscellaneous vegetables, $173.6 million
- Cauliflower, $163.3 million
- Spinach, $122.6 million
Increases included broccoli, up 35%; cauliflower, 48%; head lettuce, 16%; and dry onions, 57%.
The core vegetable crops enjoyed increased value on similar acreage and production due in part to Northeast weather events that affected local supply and turned buyers to California.
“That supply is filled with Monterey County product, for one,” Lauritzen said. “They’re not contracted in advance, so it’s bought on the open market and prices are up as a result. But there is also increased consumer demand for fresh fruits and vegetables in general.”
Another 16 crops recorded $10 million or more each. Kale, a trending vegetable, was valued at $22.2 million, up about 17%. There were 1,963 acres planted. Raspberries were $43.7 million, up from $41.3 million.
Organic gross sales and acreage also rose, though the number of registered producers remained unchanged at 131. Gross sales for all organic crops were $214.4 million, up nearly 15%. There were 33,381 acres in production, or 33% more.
Avocados, a comparatively minor crop at 237 acres in the county, shot up 421% from $576,000 to $3 million as weather and price swings affected that market.
Overall, the numbers show Monterey County agriculture comparatively untouched — so far — by the statewide drought.
“We rely on groundwater here and have managed to continue to produce at the same rate,” Lauritzen said. “That’s significant as compared to some other areas that have had to take acreage out of production.”
The report does not reflect profits.