For the 15th consecutive year U.S. fresh vegetable imports have increased, according to the latest numbers from the USDA.
Imports accounted for about nearly 32 percent of the total fresh vegetable supply in 2018, up from nearly 30 percent in 2017 and almost 25 percent in 2010.
The vegetable commodity with the highest import share was asparagus, with nearly 99 percent accounted for by imports in 2018. That compares with over 95 percent in 2017 and nearly 90 percent in 2010.
Over 60 percent of U.S. fresh tomato supplies in 2018 were imported, up from 59 percent in 2017 and 53 percent in 2010.
The lowest share of imports for a fresh vegetable commodity was held by spinach, with imports accounting for just over 3 percent of the supply in 2018.
The rising share of imports does illustrate the tough competitive position for U.S. growers, particularly for labor-intensive crops like asparagus. The import share of head lettuce (5 percent) and leaf lettuce (10 percent) are still relatively low, though both broccoli and cauliflower now have 20 percent of supply from imports.
Unless mechanization makes rapid gains in the next decade, the import share of fresh vegetable supply will continue to increase.