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Revised, August 2021.
Cauliflower belongs to the same plant family as cabbage, broccoli, kale, bok choy and Brussels sprouts. Total annual consumption of cauliflower in the United States in 2020 was approximately 2.61 pounds of fresh and 0.72 pounds of frozen per person (USDA ERS, 2020).
Cauliflower is a highly nutritious vegetable, ranking among the top 10 foods in regards to ANDI score (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index), which measures vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content in relation to caloric content. It is low in calories and an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber, as well as provides two core conventional antioxidants.
California is the major cauliflower-producing state in the United States, with about 90 percent of the supply. Arizona is second, followed by Oregon. Around 94 percent of the cauliflower produced in 2020 was sold for fresh market. The value of the utilized production in 2020 was estimated at $346.391 million. Imports of fresh cauliflower totaled 231 million pounds in 2019 but are projected to decline 10 percent in 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic. Import penetration in the U.S. fresh cauliflower market has soared as the consumption profile of cauliflower has risen over the past several years, and nearly 23 percent of domestic availability was accounted to imports. (USDA NASS 2020).
The rise of riced cauliflower makes it more possible for all above the ground parts of the cauliflower plant to be used. In California, growers have seen dramatic movement of cauliflower during the pandemic. This year has seen generally shrinking volume from the beginning of February, and lower volume than the previous two year since the beginning of March. Pricing is below the prior two years and continues decreasing, although price has not stabilized, the rate of decrease has slowed.
Cauliflower is a cool-season crop requiring more exacting temperature for quality production than its relatives. The optimal temperature range for cauliflower is between 65 and 68° F. It is extremely sensitive to unfavorable conditions, such as unusually hot weather, drought or too low temperature, which often result in the formation of premature heads or curds.
Cauliflower was produced on approximately 42,200 acres in 2020 and the number of U.S. farms producing cauliflower has increased in the last five years. This is due, in part, to an increase in the number of small farms of less than 5 acres producing cauliflower. The average yield in 2020 was approximately 23,000 pounds per acre. In 2020, total U.S. cauliflower production was 1003 million pounds. Cauliflower exports were approximately 273 million pounds.
The 2020 season average price for fresh cauliflower in the U.S. was $39.10 per cwt, a pretty significant decrease from $45.70 in 2019.
Based on most recent production and price averages, the estimated gross value per acre is $10,540. The costs of production of cauliflower vary depending on the production location, weather, and other factors. It is particularly labor-intensive with hand-labor needed for blanching, harvest and post-harvest handling and packaging.