Planted area for spring-season onions is expected to decline 12 percent to 34,400 acres.

Plantings are down in three of the four reporting states with Texas (down 23 percent) expecting the largest decline. Although area planted is forecast lower, production could exceed the short 2002 crop of 9.7 million hundredweight (cwt), if yields in Texas and Georgia improve and harvested area in Georgia recovers from the disease-induced losses of a year ago.

First-quarter market prices for most fresh vegetables are expected to average well below the weather-driven highs of a year ago. After an early January spike, f.o.b. prices moved much lower into February. Generally, commercial vegetable prices this winter have remained below year-ago levels despite periods of freezing temperatures in Florida during Jan. 23-28. Imports, largely from Mexico, appear to have largely filled in the supply gaps caused by cool Florida weather.

Tomato processors

U.S. tomato processors have signaled preliminary intentions to increase acreage and output slightly in 2003. Although final area and output is far from certain at this early date, the current thinking by California processors calls for 1 percent more contract tonnage in 2003 — which could yield a crop similar to last year's 11.7 million tons (second largest on record).

Despite the larger supply of potatoes on hand this year, strong early-season demand has helped to keep potato prices at relatively high levels. The average U.S. grower price for September-January was up 4 percent from the same period a year ago, and 41 percent higher than two years ago. Processors in the nine major processing states have used 109 million cwt of 2002 crop potatoes as of Feb. 1, up 13 percent from a year ago.

Dry beans down

Low dry bean prices together with improved prices for competing crops are expected to cause U.S. dry edible bean production to decline 15 percent to 20 percent in 2003. Double-digit output reductions are expected for major classes such as navy, black, and dark red kidney, with somewhat smaller declines expected for pinto and light red kidney beans.

Increased output is expected for Great Northern and blackeye beans.

Spurred largely by higher market prices during the 2002 season, dry pea and lentil producers are expected to modestly increase planted area. Assuming a return to trend yields, both dry pea and lentil output should increase in the coming season.

Dry pea production could rise by as much as one-third — even if planted area remained near last season's 302,700 acres.