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Serving: West

Prices fell for West's major noncitrus crops in 2020

Tim Hearden WFP-hearden-berries-crop-report.JPG
Watsonville, Calif., strawberry grower Peter Navarro checks berries in his field in 2019.
Grapes, apples, almonds among nation's leaders in utilized production, according to NASS' annual report.

West Coast commodities again dominated U.S. utilized production of noncitrus fruit and nut crops in 2020, but most of the region's major specialty crops saw price slides, according to a federal report issued this week.

Grapes, apples and strawberries -- the lion's share of which were from the West -- accounted for 78% of the national noncitrus fruits total with 1.85 million bearing acres, down 2% from the previous season, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported.

In 2020, the nation’s utilized production for tree nut crops totaled 4.12 million tons, up 24% from 2019 on the strength of massive California almond, pistachio and walnut crops. But the value of utilized production for 2020 tree nut crops totaled $10.1 billion, down slightly from the previous year, even as bearing acreage ticked up 6% to 2.49 million, according to NASS.

The value of utilized production for the 21 noncitrus fruit crops totaled $14.7 billion, down 6% from the previous year, officials reported. Grapes, apples, and strawberries claimed the highest values, accounting for 68% of the total value of harvested and sold fruit when combined.

Grapes, cherries soar

But of those, only fresh grapes from California have seen a significant increase in price per ton since 2018, jumping from $1,120 that year to $1,500 in 2020, according to NASS. The value of utilized production rose from $1.23 million to $1.44 million during the period as overall yields dropped from nearly 1.1 million tons to 960,100 tons. Wine grapes weren't included in the report.

West Coast cherries have also soared in price, rising in average from $2,080 to $3,280 per ton from 2018-2020, according to the report. The overall value of harvested cherries from California, Oregon and Washington jumped from $604.1 million in 2018 to $873 million in 2020.

Apples saw a very slight drop in price per pound from 2018 to 2020, from 29.9 cents to 29.7 cents, as overall yields edged slightly upward. The value of harvested apples nationwide slid from over $2.95 billion in 2018 to just under $2.94 billion in 2020, NASS reported.

In Washington, which accounts for about two-thirds of the nation's apple crop, the price per pound dropped from 33.6 cents to 31.9 cents in the two-year period. It's value of harvested fruit dropped from $2.14 billion to less than $2.1 billion, even as 2020 marked the debut of Washington State University's long-awaited and much-hyped Cosmic Crisp apple variety.

The price per hundredweight of U.S. strawberries, most of which are from California, fell from $129 in 2019 to $110 in 2020, as the overall crop value fell from $2.35 billion to $2.056 billion during the period, according to the report. Bearing acreage has been on a downward trend, and growers have turned to new varieties to try to maintain yields.

Nuts mixed

As their production continues to boom, prices for West Coast tree nuts have been a mixed bag. California pistachios and Oregon hazelnuts have seen increases from 2018 to 2020 -- from $1,800 to $2,100 per ton for hazelnuts and from $2.65 to $2.75 for pistachios, although pistachios averaged $2.81 in 2019, NASS reported.

The value of utilized production of hazelnuts rose from $91.8 million in 2018 to $132.3 million last year, while the overall value of harvested pistachios jumped from $2.6 billion to nearly $2.9 billion during the period, according to the agency.

Almonds, walnuts and pecans recorded declines in price and overall crop value over the two-year period. Almonds dipped from $2.50 to $1.83 per pound on average, as their overall value fell from nearly $6.17 billion in 2019 to $5.6 billion last year.

Walnuts have taken a nosedive in unit price, from $1,890 per ton in 2019 to $1,220 per ton last year, as the overall value of harvested nuts dropped from $1.24 billion two years ago to $957.7 million last year.

To view the 88-page report, click here.

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