U.S. per capita use of fresh vegetables dipped 5% in 2013 and imports claimed a record share of the total supply, according to new U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates.
Preliminary numbers show per-capita use of fresh vegetables (excluding potatoes and melons) in the U.S. totaled 138.8 pounds in 2013, down 5% from 145.5 pounds in 2012 and off 5% from 146.8 pounds in 2000, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service. That preliminary number is the lowest per-capita use of fresh vegetables since 1998’s tally of 136.1 pounds.
The USDA also said that imports accounted for a record 27.3% of fresh vegetable use in the U.S. in 2013, up from 25.1% in 2012 and double the import share of 13.2% in 2000. U.S. vegetable exports accounted for 7.1% of the domestic supply, up from 7% in 2012, but down from 7.8% in 2000.
The report reflects a decline in most of the major fresh vegetables tracked in 2013 compared with the previous year, including tomatoes (-3% to 19.6 pounds), head lettuce (-12% to 12.5 pounds), carrots (-4% to 7.6 pounds), bell peppers (-10% to 10.3 pounds) and sweet corn (-4% to 7.4 pounds). Other less consumed vegetables also showed declines, including asparagus (-5% to 1.6 pounds) and snap/green beans (-5% to 1.7 pounds).
Fresh vegetables that showed stable per-capita use included cabbage (7.1 pounds) and cauliflower (1.2 pounds).
Fresh potato and broccoli per-capita use was higher in 2013, according to the USDA.
Broccoli rose 8% from 6.3 pounds in 2012 to 6.8 pounds in 2013, while potato per-capita use in 2013 rose 5% to 36.1 pounds.
The change in per-capita use doesn’t mean that much for a single year, said Desmond O’Rourke, president of Belrose Inc., Pullman, Wash. Weather events and yield differences can create swings, he said. O’Rourke said USDA Agricultural Marketing Service shipment data shows 2013 vegetable volume was flat compared with 2012, though the USDA includes pumpkins in their total volume numbers for vegetables.