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California carrot production holds steady

by Brian Gaylord | March 09, 2009
California fresh-market carrot production has held relatively steady for the past several years. The production total came in at 20.29 million hundredweight in 2008, a slightly higher tally than 2007.

In 2006, the tally was 20.89 million hundredweight and in 2005, the tally was 20.6 million hundredweight. Production came in at slightly over 20 million hundredweight in both 2003 and 2004.

Jerry Munson, manager of the California Fresh Carrot Advisory Board in Dinuba, CA, said that fresh-market carrot production is "very stable" and that California's water woes shouldn't have much impact on carrots in 2009.

Assessment rates increased by 10 percent in 2006. At the time, only four companies - Grimmway Farms, Wm. Bolthouse Farms, Kern Ridge Growers and Cream of the Crop - did enough volume of business in carrots to be subject to the assessment, which means they each shipped more than 10 million pounds, according to Mr. Munson.

Assessment rates have stayed the same since the 2006 increase, which amounts to about 1.1 cent per 50 pounds of carrots, Mr. Munson said.

The California fresh-market carrot industry has undergone consolidation in recent years. Wm. Bolthouse Farms acquired Cream of the Crop near the end of 2007, further narrowing the assessment field to just Wm. Bolthouse Farms, Grimmway Farms and Kern Ridge Growers.

The California Fresh Carrot Advisory Board's budget for research in 2008 was about $280,000. The board has proposed a budget of $250,000 for 2009.

Board members will gather for an annual carrot symposium on March 17 and will finalize the budget then, Mr. Munson said.

The California Fresh Carrot Advisory Board uses the money to conduct research in areas such as trying to rid carrots of the threat of nematodes and cavity spot disease. Although the majority of the board's money is aimed at production-oriented research, one research project launched in 2008 is focused on food safety. It's a two-year project "trying to prove pathogens don't enter [carrot] roots through irrigation water," Mr. Munson said.

Fresh-market carrots - including fresh-cut product - dominate California's total carrot production. California grows upwards of 70 percent of the United States' commercially produced carrot supply, and most of California's carrots are grown in Kern County.

Among the other important producing areas are Imperial County, Riverside County, the Lancaster area, the Salinas Valley, the Cuyama Valley and Fresno County.