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October 21, 2021

Monterey County crops decline in value after pandemic and fires

Lettuce out as top product as strawberries take spotlight

MONTEREY COUNTY — Crop values fell in 2020 by a total of $499 million from 2019, with 2020’s total at $3.9 billion, according to the Monterey County Crop Report issued by Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales on July 20.

The 11.3% decrease in production value from $4.4 billion in 2019 was attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The loss of much of the foodservice sector from cancellation of major events and closure of schools meant a sharp drop in need for crops, depressing crop production.

Ash from wildfires also contributed to the decline by making some produce unsellable, causing crops to be lost. A final attribution was crop disease outbreaks resulting in crop losses.

The traditional leaf lettuce crop went through a 15.2% decrease from 2019, with lower prices and pandemic effects causing it to become the county’s second most valuable crop at $712 million.

The new top crop in Monterey County were strawberries, which had a 26% increase from 2019.

Vegetables overall decreased by 18.5% from 2019. Fruits and nuts increased by 9.4% to $1.1 billion, led by strawberry performance.

Wine grapes fell significantly by 43%, or by $80.1 million, mostly due to the wildfires affecting grapes grown in the area.

“With the pandemic, wildfires and the uncertainty of what to do and how to do it, this presented us with the greatest adversity we had ever encountered and yet we continued — the whole agricultural industry continued,” Gonzales said. “Our inspection staff continued to safeguard the food chain supply even though other industries could not. This could not have been accomplished if not for the collaboration between the agricultural industry, but also farmworker advocacy groups for the protection of agricultural employees, agriculture and the food that we produce.”

Livestock and poultry went through gains, increasing to $110.8 million in 2020 from $110.5 million in 2019. Nursery crops fell to $119.8 million from $143.9 million. Field crops went through a small gain to $25.4 million from $24.5 million. Seed crops and apiaries jumped to $4.5 million from $3.6 million the year before.

Rounding out the county’s top five individual crops were head lettuce, which was valued at $428.5 million, broccoli at $341.4 million and cauliflower at $192.7 million.

Sean Roney
Sean Roney is the reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.
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