Where Do Our Fruits and Vegetables Come From?
Ever wonder where your fruits and vegetables come from? How are “seasonal” fresh fruits and vegetables readily available 365 days a year? We wanted to know more about how our grocery store shelves remain stocked all year round. Here is what we found out.
In most states, fruit and vegetables are in season for a short period of time – usually measured in weeks of the year. In states such as Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California with mild climates and large fertile, arable land mass, some produce may be grown for longer time periods than in the more temperate U.S. zones. But even in these states, seasonality still limits production for most commodities requiring import of products from the southern hemisphere.
So… how is it that we are eating fresh berries at Christmas time?
Imports from Mexico and South and Central America enable U.S. consumers to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables during the winter months
- During the 15 year span (1998-2012), spring produce shipments more than tripled and fall shipments increased 4.5-fold.
- Over 90% of imported fruits and vegetables come from Mexico, Central America, and South America.
- In 1998, 100% of iceberg lettuce was grown domestically, but by 2012, domestic production shrank 5%.
How has the market for fresh/processed/frozen fruits and vegetables changed?
By and large, growers plant their crops knowing where the harvested crop is going – to either fresh market or processing buyers.
From 2010-2012 fresh fruit accounted for 52% of Americans’ per capita consumption, up from 42% in 1970-1972; while processed fruit (canned, juice, frozen, and dried) fell steadily from a peak of 171.3 lbs. per person in 1977 to 113.7 lbs. per person in 2012.
Within the processed category, canned and juice consumption have declined the most from 1970 to 2012. Growth in the frozen fruit category was attributed primarily to the popularity of frozen berries.
The Bottom Line:
Our fruits and vegetables come from all over the United States, but California leads production by a huge margin. When the season ends in the United States, production shifts to Mexico, Central and South American countries allowing Americans to enjoy many fresh produce items year-round.
USDA, 2012 Census of Agriculture, United States Summary and State Data, Volume 1, Geographic Area Series, Part 51https://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2012/
USDA, Vegetables 2015 Summary, National Agricultural Statistics Service, February 2016http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/VegeSumm/VegeSumm-02-04-2016.pdf
USDA, Economic Research Service, Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-availability-(per-capita)-data-system/.aspx