Ag Outlook: Fresh Market Demand Underpins Fruits And Veggies

Modest growth in Northeast fresh market demand continues for fruits and vegetables, predict Cornell and Penn State analysts.

Published on: Mar 20, 2014

Here's a quick summary outlook of the 2014 exclusive special report on fruits and vegetables published in March's American Agriculturist courtesy of Cornell and Penn State universities.

Slow vegetable growth
U.S. production of all pulses and vegetables will increase at a modest 0.5% annual growth rate through 2022, says Miguel Gomez, Cornell ag economist specializing in horticultural markets.

Production of fresh vegetables will increase while processing vegetables will stay the same.

Consumers continue to show strong preference for fresh vegetables, particularly for fresh-cut salads.

Also, fresh vegetable markets will benefit from the recent U.S. natural gas boom. Commercial greenhouses are benefiting from lower heating costs and are expanding their vegetable offers.

A SOUND MIX: Growing numbers of Northeast farm families find that diversified crop production opens new and higher-value market opportunities.
A SOUND MIX: Growing numbers of Northeast farm families find that diversified crop production opens new and higher-value market opportunities.

This may provide incentives to increase production, even during the winter season, of high-value vegetables such as colored sweet peppers, lettuce, vine tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs and eggplant, among others. Greenhouse vegetables production will increase nationwide, including in cool climate regions.

Vegetable import growth will be driven by fresh and processed vegetables alike. Among the leading imports will be fresh greenhouse tomatoes and processed potato products. In contrast, vegetable exports will be driven primarily by processed products – potato frozen fries and tomato sauce and paste products in particular.

Looking for a record apple crop
A record apple crop is expected in the near future even with relatively normal growing conditions in all major apple-growing regions including Washington State, New York and Michigan, predict Brad Rickard and Alison DeMarree. Rickard is a Cornell ag economist specializing in fruit economics. DeMaree is a Cornell Extension farm business educator.

At least 10 very promising new varieties will be planted over the next three to five years. All are all expected to have improved qualities – taste, firmness and ability to retain flavor in storage. But it's not clear whether they'll retire older varieties or if they'll be used to expand the market and lift per capita consumption.

At this point, it's unclear what the future of immigration reform might be in 2014. Some have pointed out that immigration reform has happened approximately every 25 years. That would make 2014 the year for it.

Mother Nature's tough on berries

Northeast berry growers can expect another challenging year due to a tiny fly called the spotted-winged drosophila, agree Kathy Demchak and Marvin Pritts. Demchak and Pritts are horticulture and small-fruit specialists at Penn State and Cornell, respectively.

SWD is most damaging to berry crops maturing later than mid-summer, especially blackberries, late-season raspberries and blueberries. Some growers have already abandoned late-maturing berry fields and replanted with other crops or earlier-maturing varieties.

It's unclear whether this winter's cold will reduce SWD populations or delay their appearance.

This winter is also likely to negatively impact production of blackberries, summer raspberries and certain blueberries. Warm temperatures between periods of extreme cold can cause bud damage, especially as spring approaches.

Unmulched strawberries are likely to suffer damage. The potential crop could be reduced significantly, while demand for local and healthful foods will be higher than ever.

Use of high and low tunnels continues to rise. However, extending strawberry and raspberry harvest into fall increases SWD risks.

Grower interest in alternative crops such as elderberries, Juneberries, currants, and edible blue honeyberries continues to increase. Potential exists for greatly expanded black currant production. A small processing industry already is in place, and new varieties are on the horizon.

For more the complete outlook, click here and here.