By Henrich Brunke and Hayley Boriss, Agricultural Issues Center, University of California
Revised June 2011 by Malinda Geisler, AgMRC, Iowa State University.
Carrots are a member of the parsley (Unbelliferae) family, which also includes celery, anise and dill. Carrots are thought to be native to central or western Asia (likely Afghanistan). Cultivated carrots first arrived in North American with the early Virginia colonists. In early history, carrots were used to cure a wide range of conditions.
Total U.S. carrot production for the fresh and processing markets was valued at more than $626.6 million in 2010. The value of production of fresh carrots increased from $518 million in 2004 to $597 million in 2010. Carrots used for processing were valued at $29.6 million in 2010, down from $34.4 million in 2004. (NASS 2010)
In the United States, carrot production is highly mechanized and highly concentrated. Both carrots used for processing and fresh carrots use mechanical harvesting techniques and only two major California firms account for the majority of all carrot products sold (ERS 2003).
Demand declined to an estimated 9.6 pounds per person in 2009. (Carrots reached a high of 18.2 pounds per person in 1997.) The majority of consumption is attributable to demand for fresh carrots, which dipped to 7.4 pounds per person in 2009. Demand for processing carrots (including freezing and canning) has been variable and substantially less than fresh market consumption. The per person consumption of carrots used for freezing and canning in 2009 was 1.4 and 0.8, respectively.
Factors influencing consumer demand for carrots include convenience, taste and health consciousness, given that carrots are a good source of vitamins and minerals and have been shown to contain cancer-preventing agents (ERS 2003). In this century, carrots have largely been used as a popular cooking vegetable, salad item, snack food and raw vegetable. In addition, value-added products including peeled baby carrots and other fresh-cut items have gained in popularity (ERS 2007).
In 2010 22.7 million cwt of U.S. carrots for fresh consumption were harvested from 68,000 acres. Acreage for fresh carrot production has decreased from 113,660 acres in 1996 to the current level. The top three fresh carrot producing states in 2010 were (in order): California, Michigan and Texas. California accounted for 84 percent of all the fresh market production.
U.S. carrot farmers produced 321,030 tons of carrots for processing from 12,510 harvested acres in 2010. Processing acreage decreased from 25,720 acres in 1996. Washington, Wisconsin, Minnesota and California were the top producers of carrots for the processing market. Washington, the top producing state in the nation in 2010, accounted for 27 percent of production. Wisconsin, the second ranked state, also contributed 27 percent.
The United States was the third largest producer of carrots, just behind Russia. Both distantly followed China, which produced 34 percent of the world’s carrots (ERS 2008).
Prices for fresh carrots have been variable over the years. In 2010 the average price for fresh carrots was $26.20 per cwt, up from $20.60 per cwt in 2006. Prices for processing carrots have always been much lower than prices for fresh carrots. Prices for processing carrots were $92.20 per ton in 2010, up from $69.30 per ton in 2006.
In 2010 U.S. carrot exports totaled 110,796 metric tons (MT). Fresh carrot exports were valued at $125.9 million. Most U.S. carrots are exported to Canada, which accounted for 88 percent of all carrot exports. The next largest market for the United States was Mexico, accounting for 5 percent of the total volume of carrot exports.
In 2010, the United States imported 143,207 MT of fresh carrots valued at $48.9 million and 2,509 MT frozen carrots valued at $2.9 million. Canada was the leading source of U.S. fresh carrots, followed by Mexico. Israel was the top source of imported frozen carrots in 2010.
Carrots, Statistics by Subject, National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS), USDA.
U.S. Carrot Statistics, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA.
Vegetables and Melons Outlook, ERS, USDA.
Vegetables Annual Summary, NASS, USDA.
Links checked January 2013.