By Hayley Boriss and Henrich Brunke, Agricultural Issues Center, University of California.
Revised April 2012 by Lisa Jore, Associate Program Director, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota.
Broccoli is said to have originated in the Mediterranean where it can still be seen today, growing wild along the Mediterranean coast. Broccoli is a fairly new crop to America. The seeds that sprouted the U.S. industry came from Italy and were planted in 1923 in California (Penn State Cooperative Extension Report 2000). Today, broccoli is grown in nearly every state, though California remains the major producer.
Broccoli is marketed as either a fresh or processed product. Processed broccoli is typically frozen for retail sale and marketed as either spears or chopped, while a limited amount is canned for soups. Typically, broccoli grown for processing is produced under contract between grower and processor. However, broccoli is considered a dual use vegetable because fresh varieties can be used for either the fresh or processing market. Therefore, processors will often purchase fresh broccoli when fresh market prices are low.
In more recent years, the broccoli industry has become highly concentrated with a smaller number of farms providing a larger share of production. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture (2010), California was home to 416 producers who cultivated 106,271 acres of broccoli. Both the number of farms and number of acres decreased from the previous census in 2002. Most of the current producers harvested broccoli for the fresh market rather than for processing. The higher concentration is partly attributed to the emergence of the value-added fresh sector, which includes pre-cut and bagged broccoli florets and broccoli coleslaw. The nature of the value-added sector requires larger volumes of product to allow processing plants to run efficiently year round, which encourages both growers and processors to become more concentrated.
Over the last two and a half decades, per person consumption of fresh broccoli has mostly increased, rising from 1.4 pounds in 1980 to 5.6 pounds in 2010 (ERS, Yearbook 2011). Broccoli for processing grew more slowly, increasing from 1.5 pounds to 2.5 pounds within the same period (ERS, Yearbook 2011). Fresh broccoli consumption has increased partly in response to the popularity of salad bars. However, the majority of consumption is due to its use as a side dish or entrée component (ERS 2008).
Broccoli has also been marketed as a nutritious dietary supplement due to its high fiber content, vitamin C, vitamin A and mineral content, including calcium and iron, and cancer-preventing agents, which have spurred consumption among increasingly health-conscious consumers. Research studies indicate the possibility of anti-carcinogenic properties in broccoli (NIFA 2007).
Broccoli was harvested on nearly 121,700 acres in 2010 (ERS Yearbook 2011). The leading broccoli-producing states are California and Arizona. In 2010, California alone produced 17.2 million cwt of broccoli, which was valued at more than $606 million (Ag Statistics, NASS 2010). Fresh broccoli accounted for 16.8 million cwt and $588.4 million of California's broccoli crop (Summary, NASS 2011). In contrast, Arizona produced 1 million cwt of fresh broccoli, which was valued at $42.8 million. In 2010 California produced 20,5000 tons of broccoli for processing; that broccoli was valued at $17.6 million (Summary, NASS 2011).
Prices received for fresh broccoli are typically higher than prices received for broccoli for processing. The average U.S. price for fresh broccoli reached a low point in 2001 when it fell to $25.80 per cwt. By 2010 the average price of fresh broccoli was $35.40 per cwt, a $4.40 per cwt decrease from the previous year (Yearbook, ERS 2011). Prices for broccoli used for processing have also decreased. In 2010 the price for processing broccoli was $860 per ton, down from $875 per ton in 2009 (Summary, NASS 2011).
Exports of U.S. fresh broccoli totaled 135,771 MT in 2010, up nearly 14.6 percent from the previous year (FAS, 2011). The fresh broccoli exports were valued at $136 million. Leading markets for the fresh broccoli were Canada, which purchased 136.1 million pounds, and Japan, which purchased 126 million pounds. The two countries accounted for 46 percent and 42 percent, respectively, of U.S. fresh broccoli exports (Vegetable and Melons Data, ERS 2009).
Broccoli accounts for about a third of the frozen vegetables imported each year (ERS 2008), and the United States is a net importer of broccoli overall. In 2010, the United States imported 524.5 million pounds of frozen broccoli valued at $243 million. The majority of the frozen broccoli came from Mexico (72%), followed by Guatemala (15%) and Ecuador (8%) (Vegetable and Melon Data, ERS 2011). The United States has come to rely on frozen broccoli imports because production of frozen broccoli florets is labor intensive, and U.S. labor costs are higher than in other countries (ERS 2009).
In 2010 the value of imported fresh broccoli amounted to $93.8 million. The leading supplier of fresh broccoli was Mexico, which provided 97 percent, followed by from Canada, which provided 3 percent (Vegetable and Melon Data, ERS 2011).
2010 Agricultural Statistics Annual, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), USDA, 2010.
Broccoli: Super Food for All Seasons, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA, 1999.
Compound in Broccoli Could Boost Immune System, University of California, NIFA, USDA, 2007.
Global Ag Trade System, Foreign Ag Service, USDA.
Vegetables, NASS, USDA, 2011.
Vegetables and Melons: Trade, ERS, USDA, 2009.
Vegetables and Pulses Yearbook, ERS, USDA.
Vegetables, Potatoes, and Melons Harvested for Sale: 2007 and 2002, 2007 Census of Agriculture - State Data, NASS, USDA, 2009.
Created December 2005 and revised April 2012.