Canned goods expected to offset any fresh-market reductions In 2000, vegetable and melon consumption is projected to exceed the 1999 record high. On a per capita basis, the USDA says the total is expected to remain near last year's level. Reduced fresh-market use is expected to be offset by increases in canning vegetables and potatoes.

Fresh-market use will likely decline about 1 percent as growers and shippers reduce production in response to financial losses caused by low shipping-point prices the previous year. However, canning use is forecast to rise about 3 percent, led by an increase in processed tomato products.

Per-capita use of all vegetables and melons totaled 454 pounds in 1999 - up 8 pounds from a year earlier. Large supplies and much lower prices led to a 5-percent increase in fresh vegetable use (excluding potatoes). Increases were also noted in vegetables for freezing, potatoes, and dry beans.

On the fresh-market side, significant increases in 1999 per-capita use were experienced in cauliflower (up 40 percent), head lettuce (15 percent), broccoli (15 percent), cantaloupe (9 percent), and watermelon (8 percent).

Very few fresh-market vegetables experienced reduced use last year, with declines in cabbage (down 8 percent), leaf/romaine lettuce (7 percent), and tomatoes (1 percent) most noteworthy.

Shipping-point prices for fresh-market vegetables have been on a roller coaster during 2000. In the first half of the year, prices received by U.S. commercial vegetable and melon growers averaged 1 percent less than a year earlier and 8 percent below 2 years ago.

California weather Continuing a general slide that began in the spring of 1999, shipping-point prices for fresh-market vegetables during the first quarter averaged 13 percent below a year earlier and were the lowest since 1986. Unusually cool, wet weather in central California interfered with the production of many vegetables, and the resulting jump in second-quarter prices nearly offset the sharp first quarter decline.

Second-quarter prices averaged the third highest on record for that quarter. Shipping-point prices declined seasonally in late June and July, as traditional summer supplies came into the market from a variety of states.

In 1999, despite cool, rainy spring weather in California, the summer drought in the East, and hurricanes in the South, total U.S. vegetable and melon output rose 7 percent. With the exception of dry edible peas (down 15 percent), vegetables for freezing (down 3 percent), and sweet potatoes (down 3 percent), production of all aggregate vegetable categories increased.

Both fresh and canning vegetable output reached record highs in 1999. Fresh vegetable production rose 7 percent, led by double-digit percentage gains for artichokes, garlic, honeydew melons, broccoli, head lettuce, and watermelon. Canning vegetable production rose 27 percent.