Agronometrics in Charts: 2023 – Year in Review

By Agronometrics | 29 December 2023

In this installment of the ‘Agronometrics In Charts’ series, Sarah Ilyas reviews the top ten fresh produce commodities of 2023 in the US market. Each week the series looks at a different horticultural commodity, focusing on a specific origin or topic visualizing the market factors that are driving change.

In 2023, the world experienced catastrophic flooding across 10 countries in 12 days, the hottest ocean temperatures ever recorded, heat waves that scorched the entire Northern Hemisphere, and the worst drought in 40 years across the Horn of Africa. 2023 was the year that climate change became even more undeniable. The year saw a significant decline in inflation in the broader economy. The somewhat atypical inflation figures are anticipated to prompt a decline in interest rates in 2024, facilitating a sought-after “soft landing” for the U.S. economy. As of the close of 2023, the USDA projected grocery inflation at 5.2%, down from the 11.4% recorded in 2022 but still surpassing the 3.5% levels observed in both 2021 and 2020. Looking ahead to 2024, the USDA forecasts a deceleration in grocery inflation to 1.6%. November saw a decline in U.S. prices for the first time in over three and a half years, further reducing the annual inflation rate to below 3%, consequently heightening market expectations of an interest rate reduction by the Federal Reserve in coming March. The diverse events of the past year also exerted a discernible influence on the fresh produce industry. Below we list our top fresh produce commodities for the year 2023 based on consumer interest and a short description reflecting the most read stories of the year

ico blueberries color 2021 #1: Blueberries

The top commodity this year was Blueberries. Peru witnessed the catastrophic impact of the El Niño phenomenon with volumes down up to 50% compared to the previous season. Due to the significantly lower volumes from Peru, prices climbed to record high levels in many markets. Chile is currently in the initial weeks of its season with the latest forecast released by the Chilean Blueberry Committee standing at 76,500 metric tons. In the 2022-23 season, Mexico exported around 80,000 tonnes of blueberries, this season, projections are pegged at roughly 88-90 thousand tonnes, in terms of exports. 

ico avocados color 2021 #2: Avocados

At number 2 in 2023 were Avocados. With a total U.S. import volume just shy of 2.5 billion pounds for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2023, Avocados From Mexico eclipsed its previous high-water mark by more than 2 percent. Avocados From Mexico projects another prosperous fiscal year (July 2023 – June 2024) in terms of exports to the US. From January to September 2023, Peruvian avocado exports to 36 countries reached $953 million and showed a growth of 9 percent compared to the $874 million registered in the same months of 2022. In terms of volume, in the first 9 months of this year, shipments of this fruit from Peru amounted to 594,778 tons, registering an increase of 3.3 percent more than the same period last year. Even though the industry struggled with challenging weather conditions during August, which reduced the month’s harvest volume year-on-year from 48,401 tons to 45,041 tons, regions like Pasco and Ica experienced more than 85% increase in production volume.

ico grapes color 2021 #3: Grapes

At number 3 in 2023 were Grapes. Hurricane Hilary dealt California grape growers a severe blow. The storm delivered wind and rain to many California table grape vineyards during peak harvest for most of the 90 varieties grown in the state; problems were compounded as many growing areas were hit with additional rain and humidity from the storm’s aftermath, industry leaders said. “The revised estimate for the California crop is 71.9 million 19-pound boxes, the last time the crop was under 75 million boxes was 1994,” California Table Grape Commission President Kathleen Nave said at the time. The exported volume of Chilean table grapes decreased by roughly 8.7% YoY in the 2022/23 season. The decline in exports is directly linked to the drop in domestic production caused by the decrease in table grape area planted and adverse climatic conditions in the central part of the country. As for Mexico, a delayed harvest, coupled with delays in fruit maturity caused by cool temperatures and abundant rainfall, posed significant difficulties. Volumes from Mexico this season culminated at 40.1 K tonnes, 91.3 percent higher than the peak volume recorded in 2022.

ico mangoes color 2021 #4 Mangos

At number 4 in 2023 were Mangos. The Mexican mango (2022-23) season began the first week of January and ran until the first week of October. The season saw its peak in week 18, at 17.9 K tonnes, a 50% increase compared to week 18 of 2022. In the 2023-24 season, adverse weather conditions significantly impacted Peruvian mango cultivation. Mango plantations, along with other crops, suffered the consequences of heavy rainfall, leading to exceptionally high humidity. Coupled with this, elevated temperatures exceeding the 20-year average by 2 to 3 degrees, attributed to the Niño Costero phenomenon, further exacerbated the situation. These two factors have collectively resulted in a meager flowering for the 2023-2024 crop. On the other hand of the spectrum, the current Mexican mango season is projected to have a 2% uptick in volume year-on-year. Prices reached record high levels this season, going as high as $13.90 per package in week 43. 

ico strawberries color 2021 #5: Strawberries

At number 5 in 2023 were Strawberries. The California strawberry crop was “at the mercy of Mother Nature” this year, according to Brad Rubin, the Sector Manager of Wells Fargo Agri-Food Institute. The California Strawberry Commission reported a considerable decrease in shipped trays compared to the previous year. Many California producers reported having to discard a portion of their strawberry crop due to damage caused by torrential rainfall. Prices recorded in week 12 were 40 % higher than those recorded in 2022. Supply demand imbalances were very visible in the first half of the year as growers struggled to replant waterlogged fields. By July, weekly strawberry shipments were comparable to last year’s numbers but the slow start took a toll on total volume, which was lower than last year. The Florida strawberry season is progressing favorably, with the initial harvest in Plant City kicking off earlier than ever. Harvest is expected to continue until about mid-March. In terms of peak, the first one is expected in the first week of January after which the second peak comes around February 15th.

ico raspberries color 2021 #6: Raspberries

At number 6 in 2023 were Raspberries. According to data provided by the Bank of Mexico (Banxico), Raspberries emerged as the top selling Mexican food product between January and February 2023, surpassing other highly sought-after products with prominent global recognition, including beer, tequila, and avocado. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report concerning the fruit consumption trends in the US over the past decade. In accordance with the report’s findings, raspberries superseded all other fruits and berries, exhibiting the highest rate of consumption growth across the United States. The El Niño phenomenon, hurricanes and other weather events that affected blackberry, blueberry and strawberry production in Mexico, Peru and California implied increased demand for raspberries which were able to escape mostly unscathed from such inclement weather conditions.

ico asparragus color 2021 #7: Asparagus

At number 7 in 2023 was Asparagus. 2023 was a challenging year for Asparagus. Unprecedented weather patterns in both Peru and Mexico significantly impacted the regions’ production and export capacities. Peru, which has not witnessed a cyclone in 40 years, was hit by Cyclone Yaku in the North. In just one day, the affected regions received a year’s worth of rainfall. Moreover, the official onset of El Niño and its accompanying torrential downpours further aggravated the situation, impacting asparagus production, harvests, and logistical operations in the northern regions of Peru. The excessive precipitation resulted in approximately 40 percent or more of the cultivated fields undergoing a phase of “regrowth,” leading to delays in harvesting activities. Supplies from Mexico are being impacted by adverse weather conditions, marked by heavy rain and cool temperatures, compounded by a succession of cold fronts in Baja California. The US market registered a 37% surge in asparagus pricing during week 51.

ico cherries color 2021 #8: Cherries

At number 8 in 2023 were Cherries. Chilean cherry exports reached a record 80 million boxes in the 2022-23 season. As for California, a record-setting frigid and rainy spring delayed the cherry season by nearly three weeks. Once the season began, however, it became evident that it would be extremely abundant. Conditions were ideal, enabling a prodigious harvest of cherries across the state. The early Chilean cherry season (2023-24) saw a decline of up to 50 percent in early varieties, indicating a substantial decline from the initial estimate of a 30 percent loss in the early crop, primarily attributed to split fruit. The overall export crop is expected to fall below the 80 million carton threshold. Fedefruta (The Federation of Fruit Producers of Chile) warned of adverse impacts in Curicó, a pivotal production area, where orchards are projected to harvest only 20-40% of the expected crop due to storms and unexpected rainfall, with Royal Dawn and Santina varieties being most affected. 

ico blackberries color 2021 #9: Blackberries

At number 9 in 2023 were Blackberries. Mexico’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development highlighted that this year the country is the world’s leading producer of blackberries, with a total production of 223,000 tons, largely attributed to Michoacán’s impressive contribution of 92.1%. Approximately 75% of commercial blackberries sold in retail markets in the U.S. are produced in Central Mexico. Several new varieties have been introduced with improved fruit quality, especially by Driscoll’s, including ‘Elvira’, ‘Rebecca’, and ‘Laurita’. The quality bar is rising for Mexican blackberries, and this opens the door for new cultivars to replace ‘Tupi’. Volumes out of Mexico were roughly 45% lower in week 51, compared to 2022, with pricing climbing to $19.6 per package, compared to $10.55 in week 51 of 2022. 

ico apples color 2021 #10: Apples

At number 10 in 2023 were Apples. In every statistical category, 2022-23 was a down year for the U.S. fresh apple industry. The 2022-23 Washington crop fell by 11% — from 120 million cases to 108 million cases — according to the Washington State Tree Fruit Association (WSTFA), a hangover from damage caused by an unexpected heatwave in June 2021 followed by a cold, rainy spring. This was a decrease of 15 percent over the five-year average. U.S. Apple Association offers a promising outlook for consumers in the 2023-24 period. Forecasts indicate an expected production of 250 million bushels of apples, representing a measured uptick of 1.5% when compared to the production figures of the previous season. The notable surge in volume can be attributed to the incorporation of novel, high-density orchards. Distinguished by their strategic planting densities and adoption of advanced agricultural methodologies, these orchards have emerged as a pivotal driving force in elevating the yield potential of Washington’s apple harvest; the state also experienced an exceptionally favorable bloom at the start of the year. 

ico limes color 2021 #11: Limes

At number 11 in 2023 were Limes. In week 2 of 2023, conventional limes reached the heights of $55.77 per package due to constrained supplies from Mexico. The spiraling lime prices were attributed to poor weather, rising fuel and fertilizer costs, and violence in producing states, particularly Michoacán. Warring groups blocked and destroyed roads that were used for the production of limes. In August, the situation took a downturn when numerous growers and packers in Mexico’s lime-producing regions ceased operations, opting not to pay extortion money to cartels, causing the price of limes to spike. The supply of limes out of Mexico continues to be inconsistent. “It’s due to weather and other ongoing conditions in Mexico,” says Alex Teague of World Groves. Those conditions include some aging trees, some disease problems in nursery stock and the drought. “The fruit sizing and fruit bloom continues to be a problem and there are some inherent tree situations that are behind the erratic supply which we’ve seen the last couple years,” he added.

In our ‘In Charts’ series, we work to tell some of the stories that are moving the industry. Feel free to take a look at the other articles by clicking here.

All pricing for domestic US produce represents the spot market at Shipping Point (i.e. packing house/climate controlled warehouse, etc.). For imported fruit, the pricing data represents the spot market at Port of Entry.

You can keep track of the markets daily through Agronometrics, a data visualization tool built to help the industry make sense of the huge amounts of data that professionals need to access to make informed decisions. If you found the information and the charts from this article useful, feel free to visit us at where you can easily access these same graphs, or explore the other 21 commodities we currently track.

Written by Sarah Ilyas

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