By Hayley Boriss and Marcia Kreith, Agricultural Issues Center, University of California.
Updated June 2013 by Diane Huntrods, AgMRC, Iowa State University.
Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a native of Southwest Asia and has been grown in China since at least the 7th century. Spinach use was recorded in Europe as early as the mid-13th century, with colonists carrying spinach seed to the New World.
According to the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture (2009), the number of spinach farms in the United States has increased by 93 between 2002 and 2007. The number of harvested acres, however, decreased from 49,859 to 44,071 over the same period of time.
In 2012, fresh spinach was harvested from 35,000 acres of U.S. farmland, and processing spinach was harvested from 9,100 acres (NASS 2013). California and Arizona were the leading producers of spinach, followed by Texas and New Jersey. California produces far more fresh spinach than processing spinach but is also the leading producer of processing spinach. Arizona mainly produces fresh spinach.
Per person consumption of spinach reached a record 2.8 pounds per person in 2007. Since then, per person consumption of fresh spinach has declined, falling to 1.9 pounds per person in 2009 (ERS 2010).
According to NASS (2009), only 6,550 tons of spinach was sold on the open market in 2008. On the other hand, nearly 97,000 tons of spinach were produced under contract.
In 2010, the average price for fresh spinach was a record $42.70 per cwt. By 2012, the average price for fresh spinach had fallen to $41.90 per cwt. The average price for processing spinach that year was a record $149.00 per ton. Two years later, the average price for processing spinach was $138.00 per ton. (NASS 2013).
Historically, the average price for canned spinach has been much lower than that for frozen spinach. As of 2012, canned spinach remained steady at $68 per ton while frozen spinach was priced at $152 per ton. Because frozen spinach commands a much higher price than canned spinach, 84 percent of processing spinach is frozen. (NASS 2013)
In 2012, fresh spinach production dropped to 5.3 million cwt. The total value of fresh spinach that year was $223.6 million. More than 123,400 tons of processing spinach were produced in 2012. The total value of that spinach was $17.1 million. (NASS 2013)
California and Arizona are the largest producers of fresh spinach, followed by Texas and New Jersey. California accounted for 60 percent of fresh spinach in 2012, and California and Arizona combined accounted for 85 percent. California's fresh spinach crop in 2012 was valued at nearly $140.6 million. (NASS 2013)
According to the USDA, 19,800 tons of spinach were produced for canning in 2012, an increase from 2011, and 103,630 tons of spinach were produced for freezing, a drop from the previous year. California is the largest producer of spinach for processing. The state's 2012 crop was valued at more than $12.3 million. (NASS 2013)
The United States is the second largest producer of spinach in the world behind China. According to the Economic Research Service (2010), spinach production in China reached 264.6 million cwt in 2008, while Japan, the third largest producer, grew 6.7 million cwt.
The value of fresh spinach exports climbed 13 percent in 2012, reaching $82.9 million. The primary destination was Canada. The value of frozen spinach exports rose 5 percent and totaled $7.1 million. As it was for fresh spinach, Canada was the largest buyer of frozen U.S. spinach. (FAS 2012)
Fresh spinach imports dropped by 44 percent in 2012 to $7.1 million. Most fresh spinach was imported from Mexico and Canada. During 2012, Mexican imports dropped 63 percent while Canadian imports climbed 25 percent. However, frozen spinach imports increased 20 percent that same year, reaching $24.6 million. China was the largest source of imported frozen spinach, followed by Mexico. (FAS 2012)
Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS), Foreign Ag Service (FAS), USDA.
Spinach, FAO, UN, 2007.
Vegetables, National Ag Statistics Service (NASS), USDA.
Vegetables and Pulses Yearbook, Economic Research Service, USDA.
Vegetables Annual Summary, NASS, USDA.
Vegetables, Potatoes, and Melons Harvested for Sale: 2007 and 2002, 2007 Census of Agriculture - State Data, NASS, USDA, 2009.
Created February 2006 and updated June 2013.