In 2001, the United States exported about 7 percent of its fresh market vegetable and melon supplies (production plus imports), about the same as the previous three years, USDA says in an August report.

Higher domestic prices, however, increased the incentive to export to the United States, with the import share of consumption rising from 14 to 15 percent — still below 1998's record-high of 16 percent.

Processors of five major vegetables (tomatoes, sweet corn, snap beans, green peas, and cucumbers for pickles) have contracted 1.26 million acres in 2002, USDA reports. That's up 3 percent from the comparable producing states of a year ago.

Most of the rise will come from tomatoes, with processors contracting for 10 percent more acres despite generally weak wholesale prices, moderate stocks, and lackluster demand for tomato products. Contract area was greater for green peas (up 3 percent), cucumbers for pickles (22 percent), and snap beans (2 percent).

Continued weak wholesale prices prompted processors to cut sweet corn contract area. Both freezing (down 6 percent) and canning (down 3 percent) were lower. Assuming average acreage losses and trend yields this coming season, output of the five leading processing vegetables could be 12 to 14 percent above a year ago and total nearly 16 million short tons.

Output of canning vegetables could rise more than 15 percent in 2002, while output for freezing could decline 3 to 5 percent.

Average retail prices for processed vegetables (frozen, canned, and dried) increased 5 percent during the first six months of 2002, reflecting reduced canned stocks and higher marketing costs.