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Artichokes in Castroville
Higher artichoke acreage and values helped bolster overall Monterey County crop values in 2017. Growers of most vegetables enjoyed better pricing, though strawberry prices softened in the face of foreign competition.

Better vegetable values pull Monterey crop receipts higher in 2017

After two years of declines, Monterey County, Calif. saw its overall crop value climb 4 percent on better lettuce and other vegetable prices.

While still off from its 2014 record-high, Monterey County, Calif. crop values recovered somewhat from a slide in gross receipts experienced in 2015 and 2016.

The 2017 Monterey County Crop Report reveals a 4 percent boost in overall farm receipts to just over $4.4 billion on what Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales says was improved prices among some of the region’s top crops. It’s still about $400 million short of the county’s record value seen in a year that saw crop values spike to record-highs across the Golden State.

Leaf and head lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower saw increases of 5-8 percent in total value as grower prices were higher across these commodities. A quick survey of average gross grower prices showed improvements across most vegetables grown in the county.

Total lettuce values in the county grew to over $1.33 billion on over 106,000 harvested acres, a slight decrease in total acreage from the year before. Leaf lettuce remains the county’s top-crop, valued at over $829 million in gross receipts.

The county crop report reflects gross values and does not indicate or include grower profits.

At No. 2 in total value, strawberry prices softened in 2017, dragging with it the crop’s total value. Still, strawberry sales grossed over $685 million to growers in the county, down from $724 million the previous year. Strawberry acreage remained little-changed.

The biggest driver in strawberry prices was the 33 percent drop in the price paid for strawberries used for processed products. Fresh-market strawberry prices fell from $1,625 per ton to $1,540 per ton. Gonzales writes in his crop report that foreign competition for processed strawberries was a significant driver in declining values for the crop.

Artichokes saw a significant increase in acreage, yield and price as growers move to seed varieties that they can grow in rotation with other crops, according to Bob Roach, assistant agricultural commissioner for Monterey County. Growers increased production by going to the new method of planting artichokes, which is also responsible for helping fight two major yield-robbing pests.

Artichoke acreage grew 19 percent to over 4,800 as yields climbed 23 percent to an average of 5.8 tons per acre. Grower prices for artichokes were up $160 per ton, or about 10 percent, to $1,750 per ton. Total production in 2017 was just over 28,000 tons.

Greater consumer demand for brussels sprouts helped drive grower prices up more than 63 percent from the previous year, hitting a high of $2,240 per ton.

Growers harvested brussels sprouts from over 3,300 acres in 2017, a slight increase from the previous year. Though per-acre yields fell less than 1 percent, total tonnage was up slightly to just over 34,000.

According to Gonzales, large value swings were noted in some of the smaller vegetable crops, including bok choy, Napa cabbage, parsley and peppers.

Also known for its wine grape production, Monterey County growers produced 171,000 tons of all varieties on 44,299 bearing acres, down 1,000 tons and 472 acres from the previous year. Total wine grape acreage is evenly split between reds and whites.

Chardonnay grapes remain the most popular variety grown, with over 55,000 tons harvested from more than 16,000 acres. At an average price of $1,350 per ton, this puts the total value of the white varietal at over $74.6 million to county growers. About 75 percent of the white wine grapes planted there are Chardonnay.

Pinot Noir accounts for about 43 percent of the red varietals grown in the county. Growers in 2017 averaged $1,960 per ton on a total harvest of 38,300 tons across over 9,500 acres of production.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot made up another 21,100 tons and 14,500 tons, respectively, of production across a combined acreage of 9,332.

View the Monterey County Crop Report online.

TAGS: Grapes Harvest
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