With the exception of cabbage, the PPI for most commodities faced a decline in October 2012 (either from last year or last month). The spinach index fell 46.4 percent between October 2011 and October 2012.

Prices for carrots, greens and squash, however, rose between September and October 2012 but are still below October prices from the previous year.

The increased late fall volume of cauliflower is again reflected in October 2012 price index, which decreased almost 22 percent from the previous month, even as cauliflower PPI remains 30.8 percent higher than the previous year.

Despite a downward trend in the PPI for most vegetables, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all fresh-market vegetables (including potatoes) rose slightly (0.6 percent) between September and October with prices for tomatoes, lettuce and other vegetables increasing by 3.7 percent, 0.6 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

The CPI for potatoes, however, declined 3.8 percent during this period. Compared with a year ago from this past October, the CPI for fresh vegetables dropped 3.2 percent, driven by downward trends faced by potatoes (10.9 percent), lettuce (4.1 percent) and tomatoes (1.7 percent).

During the first nine months of 2012 (January to September), the volume of fresh-market vegetable imports (excluding potatoes, mushrooms, and pulses) declined 7 percent from the same period a year ago.

This drop in imports was mainly contributed by dry bulb onions and other vegetables (including carrots, broccoli, celery, etc.), which combined represented a 23-percent share of total import volume.

Import volume of fresh tomatoes (leading fresh-import item by volume) increased 3 percent during this period. Mexico and Canada, which are the largest suppliers of fresh tomatoes to the United States, maintained their position (89-percent and 9- percent shares, respectively) in the first 9 months of 2012.

Other leading fresh import commodities by volume, which also rose during this period, include cucumbers (14-percent share of total volume), bell peppers (11 percent) and chile peppers (7 percent).

The top five sources of fresh-vegetable imports from January to September were Mexico (77 percent of total volume), followed by Canada (13 percent), Peru (3 percent), China (1 percent) and Costa Rica (1 percent).

In contrast, the volume of fresh-market vegetable exports (between January and September) rose 3 percent from a year ago this September.

Exports of dry bulb onions (with 14-percent share of total volume), declined 4 percent while broccoli, celery, lettuce, and tomato exports increased.

Broccoli exports noticeably increased by 24 percent during this period, with most of that increase going to top foreign markets like Canada (23 million pounds), Japan (15 million pounds) and Taiwan (4 million pounds).

Exports of broccoli to South Korea, the fifth-leading export destination, increased five-fold from last September.

Even with exports on the rise, the United States continued to strengthen its position as a net importer of fresh-market vegetables in 2011.

The value of fresh vegetable exports totaled $2 billion (up 3 percent from 2010) while the value of fresh vegetable imports totaled $5.6 billion, thus resulting in a gap between imports and exports by $3.6 billion.

phollis@farmpress.com