Per capita vegetable use (consumption) is forecast to increase about 1 percent in 2004 to 449 pounds (fresh-weight basis). Increased use is expected for fresh market vegetables, melons, and canning vegetables, with declining use expected for potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Assuming continued favorable weather into the fall and a strengthening economy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says consumption of several fresh-market vegetables could reach record-highs in 2004.

Fresh market tomato production is expected to recover from the weather-reduced levels of 2003 and help push domestic tomato use above the 2002 record-high of 18.2 pounds per person. Similarly, increased acreage could push onion production higher in 2004, which could allow use of fresh dry-bulb onions to exceed the 1997 record high.

According to preliminary estimates for 2003, per capita use of fresh-market vegetables (excluding melons, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and mushrooms) remained virtually unchanged at 144.3 pounds.

ERS projects planted acreage for the 2004 fall-season potatoes to decline between 2 and 4 percent from a year ago.