Crop News

Severe Drought Condition Is Hurting California Agriculture


United States

Pea plantings are now completed, with green pea processing in the Northwest expected to begin end May /first week of June.   Sweet corn and green bean plantings now underway with about 20% to 25% of sweet corn in the ground in the Pacific Northwest.  

Commodity prices on grain corn and soybean rose sharply again in April.   Prices are at levels not seen in a while.   This will impact food processor’s ability to secure land at reasonable prices which in turn will reduce volumes and increase prices for frozen vegetables.

Midwest area pea planting has been ongoing with some rain delays while sweet corn plantings are expected to begin this week.

United States processing potatoes are now planted and potatoes in the Colombia Basin are beginning to emerge.   U.S. acreage as a whole is up this year, however not yet to the pre-pandemic level.  French fry sales have been strong in recent months domestically, but processors are still worried if this demand will continue due to uncertainties still concerning the covid 19 pandemic.   Also, of concern to growers and processors are the uncertainties of foreign markets in regard to covid 19.   Processing plants are running below capacity at this time.

Frozen Fruit stocks in the U.S are down 18% – 20% from last year.  To secure any U.S. offer on strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries is pretty much impossible at the moment. 

Cold storage holdings on frozen blueberries were down about 13% at end January from the same time last year.   The U.S. has imported about 90,000 tons of frozen blueberries this past year (includes wild and cultivated) and remains the highest imported product to date.

Frozen Blueberry retail sales has grown by about 24% over the past year.   This is due in part to covid related sales as well as blueberry’s high antioxidant properties to boost immune systems.

A disappointing 2020 blueberry season for both cultivated and wild blueberries in conjunction with extreme demand has resulted in more production planned this season.   Expected production increases are up by 14% for cultivated and up 27% for wild blueberries.

Severe drought conditions in approximately 70% of California is leaving farmland parched and crops in poor condition.   Lettuce, onions, almonds and pistachios are all suffering with no end in sight.  The San Joaquin Valley is particulary affected.  To give some perspective, last year at this time 12% of California was in a drought condition compared to over 70% this year.

The California Strawberry season is starting with peak production this month and June.  Due to consumer demand acreage has been increased and consumer interest is not slowing down.    Anticipation was for a good season, however earlier rains and now drought conditions may affect the outcome of the crop.  Demand remains strong and so do prices.   U.S. strawberry imports rose by 26% over the last year.

Prices for all U.S. berry fruits are up and expected to continue to rise due to smaller crops last season, high demand, and struggles with the berry crops in Chile.

2021 Northwest blueberry and raspberry crops have wintered well with no adverse conditions to report.   Raspberry and blueberry buds have started to show.  Growers are optimistic for a good season.  Estimated start date for early variety raspberries are mid to late June, with later varieties around first week of July.

Blueberries for the frozen market should be processing around end of July, however everything will depend on weather going forward.


Harvesting of Broccoli and Cauliflower in the Bajio Valley has now stopped as Mexico’s quarantine becomes effective in May/June.   Transiting to the Northern fields in the state of Guanajuato is now taking place.

Spinach season in Mexico is now underway and is expected to run through this month.

Pepper season now ongoing in Mexico and should wind down in May/June.


Broccoli harvest is now completed, and the season will start up again in July.  Late year rains reduced the volume of broccoli coming into the factories for processing and reduced total production volumes.   Mango, melon, okra season are underway.


Fruit season in Chile has been very challenging.   A devasting storm at the end of January damage crops.  Grape crops were particularly hit hard, however, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries also suffered much damage. Price are up, and inventories will be very tight moving forward.   It is estimated that damages from this storm will be over US$150 million.   Current prices on all berry fruits are up due to Chile’s crop challenges, lack of labor, and high demand worldwide.


Avocado season has begun.  Yields and quality expected to be good, however labor costs will increase prices.   Mango prices have risen further due to small fruit size and dry weather conditions resulting in a reduced crop.  The season is now completed, and prices will remain firm.


Green peas and beans remain very short in Europe with no relief in sight until new season.   Spinach and cauliflower are also short and in high demand.

A 2021 spring freeze which struck across Europe has damaged most of the stone fruit crop there.   Early vegetable crops such as peas were also affected during planting stage and will result in lower yields this season.   Expect the pea market to remain firm.

In the global frozen French fry market there is stiff competition from Europe due to the volume of processing potatoes harvested this season.   Prices are low coming from Europe.   Due to covid 19 virus the demand in Europe for potatoes on open market are extremely low causing prices to drop.   Most processors are running factories at 80 to 90% capacity.   

It has recently been reported that potato growers in Europe will reduce their potato acreage this year in order to rebalance the market.

Potato processers in Europe are facing many challenges aside from the covid challenge.   The 2020 season was the first season in which CIPC was not allowed to be sprayed to prevent sprouting in storage potatoes.   Storage has become more expensive and the new anti-sprouting treatment is expensive and not working as well as CIPC…. some sprouting is still occurring.


Tin plate prices for Q2 are predicted to rise by 10% – 15%.  This will reflect in final product can corn prices as processors will not be able to maintain the current price levels. The peak of Thailand’s current harvest took place in February.


On April 1, Japan dropped the remaining tariff of 2.1% from all frozen potato products , including frozen French fries.   The orginal 8.5% tariff gradually went down under an agreement between the U.S. and Japan and as of April 1st is now fully eliminated.  

In 2020 the U.S. exported over 342M of potato products to Japan making Japan the largest overseas market for U.S. frozen potatoes.  The National Potato Council has estimated that with the complete elimination of the tariff the U.S could possibly grow the market by another 150M annually.


Transport and pandemic issues has prevented Egypt from planting more strawberry acreage, however prices remain stable.


Sweet Corn was affected by strong weather patterns.  Wind and Rain were reported in the growing regions.  Raw Product has been forecasted to be lower than predicted. 

China is anticipating a very nice Lychee crop this season.   Favorable weather this past winter has led to expectations of a higher yield crop.   Harvest should begin in June and go through July.

Pea pod and sugar snap pea season is now underway in China.   Raw material prices were up this year so expect prices to be firm. 

Spring Asparagus season is ongoing.

Edamame planting is underway in Zhejiang province.   Season is expected to commence in June.











































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