The value of production for fresh-market vegetables totaled a record-high $10.9 billion in 2007, up 2 percent from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.

Head lettuce replaced tomatoes (due to lower tomato prices) as the top fresh vegetable at $1.4 billion—up 31 percent from a year ago. Increases for garlic (up 43 percent), squash (up 2 percent), and snap beans (up 22 percent) outweighed declines for tomatoes

(down 21 percent), onions (down 21 percent), and leaf lettuce (down 17 percent).

Fresh-market revenue increased 5 percent to $5.9 billion in California, which accounted for 54 percent of the national value of fresh-market vegetables, compared with 52 percent a year earlier. Production of fresh vegetables generated $1.3 billion in crop value in Florida—up 4 percent from 2006 as aggregate production rose.

From January through March, fresh-market vegetable and melon area for harvest (excluding onions) is expected to decline 3 percent from that of a year earlier.

Despite lower acreage and variable yields, the volume of shipments for the leading fresh-market

crops rose from the freeze-affected year-earlier levels during January. With soft demand and steadily rising imports, winter season shipping-point prices for fresh-market vegetables are expected to average well below the freeze-affected highs of a year ago.

An early crop intentions report indicated that California tomato processors intend to contract for 2 percent fewer processing tomatoes than last year’s near record-high.

Processors will likely offer higher contract prices this year to entice growers to battle a projected water shortage and higher production costs and to simply forego planting high-priced

alternative grain crops.

Total U.S. potato production for the 2007 crop year (September-August) is reported at 449 million hundredweight (cwt), a 2 percent increase from a year earlier. Despite somewhat larger supplies this winter, prices remain steady, with the January preliminary average price received for all potatoes at $7.11 per cwt, about the same as a year earlier.

Despite the availability of large supplies for a second year in a row, prices for sweet potatoes remain strong. Preliminary marketing year average price estimates for 2007/08 sweet potatoes stand at $20 per cwt, up 12 percent from 2006/07.

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