By Henrich Brunke and Hayley Boriss, Agricultural Issues Center, University of California
Revised May 2013 by Diane Huntrods, 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 nearly $642.8 million in 2012. The value of fresh carrots dropped from more than $711.1 million in 2011 to more than $609.5 million. On the other hand, the value of carrots used for processing increased from more than $29.0 million in 2011 to more than $33.2 million in 2012. (NASS 2013)
In 2012 23.2 million cwt of U.S. carrots for fresh consumption were harvested from 70,200 acres. Acreage for fresh carrot production has decreased from 113,660 acres in 1996 to the current level. The top fresh carrot producing state in 2012 was California, followed by Michigan and Texas. California accounted for about 80 percent of all the fresh market production. (NASS 2013)
U.S. carrot farmers produced 322,150 tons of carrots for processing from 12,410 harvested acres in 2012. Processing acreage has decreased from 25,720 acres in 1996. Wisconsin, Washington, California and Minnesota were the top producers of carrots for the processing market. Wisconsin surpassed Washington as the leading producer of processing carrots in 2012. Wisconsin accounted for 37 percent of production and Washington contributed 31 percent that year. (NASS 2013)
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).
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).
Prices for fresh carrots have been variable over the years. In 2012 the average price for fresh carrots was $26.20 per cwt, down from $32.50 per cwt in 2011. (NASS 2013)
Prices for processing carrots have always been much lower than prices for fresh carrots. Prices for processing carrots were $103 per ton in 2012, up from $85.70 per ton in 2011. (NASS 2013)
Demand for carrots rose to an estimated 9.8 pounds per person in 2010. (Carrots reached a high of 18.2 pounds per person in 1997.) The majority of consumption is attributable to demand for fresh carrots, which increased to 7.6 pounds per person in 2010. 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 2010 was 2.2 pounds. (ERS)
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 2012 U.S. fresh carrot exports were valued at $119.8 million, down 9 percent from 2011. Most U.S. carrots are exported to Canada, which purchased fresh carrots valued at nearly $88 million, or 90 percent of the total volume of carrot exports. Canada also purchased fresh organic carrots valued at $21.8 million in 2012, a slight drop from the previous year. (FAS)
The next largest market for U.S. carrots was Mexico, which purchased fresh carrots valued at nearly $3.6 million, or about 5 percent of all carrot exports. Mexico also purchased fresh organic carrots from the United States valued at $316,000. (FAS)
In 2012, the United States imported fresh carrots valued at $68.1 million, a 15 percent decline in value from 2011. Canada and Mexico were the largest suppliers of fresh carrots, providing carrots valued at $37.0 million and more than $24.9 million respectively. On the whole, carrot imports from Canada dropped by double digits, while imports from Mexico experienced double digit growth. (FAS)
The United States also imported frozen carrots valued at $4.6 million. Mexico was the leading source of prepared frozen carrots, supplying carrots valued at $1.8 million, a 6 percent increase from 2011. Israel was the top source of raw frozen carrots in 2012, providing carrots valued at $1.1 million, a 7 percent decrease from the previous year. (FAS)
Carrots, Statistics by Subject, National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS), USDA.
U.S. Carrot Statistics, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA.
Vegetables and Pulses, ERS, USDA.
Vegetables and Pulses Outlook, ERS, USDA.
Vegetables and Pulses Yearbook, ERS, USDA.
Vegetables Annual Summary, NASS, USDA.
Links checked January 2013.