Leaf lettuce near Salinas Todd Fitchette
Leaf lettuce continues to lead all commodities by value in Monterey County, Calif. at over $783 million. Lettuce prices to the grower were down 10-25 percent in 2016.

Crop values in America's 'Salad Bowl' mixed in 2016

Monterey County vegetable, nursery crop values down in 2016 while grape values were up on a good crush

Crop values in what is typically California’s fourth-leading agricultural county declined 9.5 percent in 2016 due to softer prices for many crops.

Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Eric Lauritzen blamed “market conditions” for the drop in overall agricultural value to $4.25 billion. This is off from the all-time high of $4.84 billion seen in 2014.

Lettuce – head and leaf – continues as crop leaders in the county, though both were down in overall value by 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

Leaf lettuce remains the highest-valued crop in Monterey County at more than $783 million. This happened in 2016 as total yields fell 4.7 percent to 65.9 million cartons on prices 4.1 percent higher on the year.

At No. 3, head lettuce yields fell 3.3 percent to 41.4 million cartons as prices shriveled by more than 22 percent. Total value of the head lettuce crop was over $478 million.

Strawberries continue as the No. 2 crop in Monterey County with a 2016 total value of $724.6 million. This happened on total production 6.6 percent higher as prices fell about 8 percent to the grower.

Lauritzen said eight of the county’s 10-leading crops had notable decreases on the year, “largely due to low market volatility, stable production, but stagnant prices.”

Wine grapes had a more positive year as the countywide crush grew 22.5 percent to 172,000 tons.

The split between white and red grape varieties remains fairly even at just over 22,000 acres each. Chardonnay is far-and-away the overall leader in harvested acres at over 16,000. Riesling grapes remain a distant second at just over 1,700 harvested acres.

Pinot Noir is the leading red variety grown in the county with over 8,700 bearing acres. Merlot at No. 2 and Cabernet Sauvignon at No. 3 are paired close in acreage, with Merlot slightly higher than 5,000 acres and Cab at just under 5,000 bearing acres.

Combined, the two varietal leaders accounted for over 56 percent of the county’s wine grape crush in 2016, according to the crop report.

Eradication of the European grapevine moth was noted as a success story in this year’s crop report as the insect started wreaking havoc on North Coast vineyards in about 2009 and spread quickly to other grape-growing regions in the state. Lauritzen said Monterey county still has 2,000 traps monitoring for the invasive insect, though the last find in the county was in June, 2014.

Other notable crop changes were:

  • Bulk broccoli yields were down 13.6 percent on prices that were $11 per ton lower;
  • Brussels sprout prices fell 19.4 percent on total yields that were nearly 84 percent higher;
  • Carrot yields were up 44 percent as prices also climbed 4.7 percent;
  • Kale saw total yield and prices climb 13 percent and 16.7 percent respectively;
  • Miscellaneous vegetables saw their price soften 20 percent as total yields rose 25 percent;
  • Parsley was down 54 percent in yield on flat prices;
  • Avocado yields were up 162 percent to over 1,300 tons per acre as prices softened 16.4 percent;
  • Blackberry yields were up 18.8 percent on prices that were 15.3 percent lower;
  • Lemon prices remained basically flat as total yield dropped 18.6 percent; and,
  • Peppers were harvested from 29 percent fewer acres as prices climbed 50 percent to $468 per ton. Total production was down 28.2 percent on the year.

The annual Monterey County Crop Report is available online.

 

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