It was a Merry Christmas in more ways than one for many fresh fruit and vegetable growers, with significantly higher prices on many commodities compared to last year.

Tomatoes, lettuce spur vegetable price jumps

Andy Nelson
Markets Editor

December fruit and nut prices fell 11% overall from November, but were 12% higher than in December 2008, according to the December Agricultural Prices report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Nonpotato vegetable growers had even more reason to celebrate this holiday season. Prices rose an average of 10% over the month before and 54% over December 2008, according to the USDA.

This is no big surprise, given that two veg heavyweights probably could have carried the rest of the category on their backs during the month and still registered significant gains.

Lettuce and tomato growers enjoyed extremely strong markets that started in the fall and did not lose their momentum when winter rolled around. Weather problems in California and Florida were the main causes.

Pricing

Lettuce shot up from $23.50 in December 2008 to $50.90 last December, and tomatoes from $37.90 to $80.50, according to the USDA.

Broccoli, carrots and celery were among the other vegetables whose value increased in December. Lower prices were recorded for sweet corn, cucumbers, onions and snap beans.

Broccoli jumped from $33.70 to $53.10 per cwt. Carrots were $27.60 per cwt., up from $25.20. Celery was $30.80, up from $20.30.

Sweet corn prices fell from $22.20 to $20.30 per cwt., cucumbers from $41.30 to $18.80, onions from $13.40 to $7.92 and snap beans from $69.20 to $61.70.

On the fruit side, price hikes for oranges, lemons, grapefruit and strawberries more than offset lower December prices for apples, pears and other fruits.

Oranges averaged $5.94 a box in December, up from $5.39 the year before. Lemons were $13.61, up from $7.86.

Grapefruit were $7.51, up from $4.52. Strawberries averaged $216 per cwt., up from $208.

Apples sold for an average of 27 cents per pound in December, down from 29 cents per pound in December 2008. Pears were $416 per ton, down from $574 last year.

E-mail anelson@thepacker.com

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