Avocados make guacamole out of competitors,
ranks 2nd in Crop Report

August 13, 2014
Santa Paula News

Strawberries holding on to 1st place in the 2013 Ventura County Crop & Livestock Report was no surprise but the fact that avocados made guacamole out of its competitors - ranking 2nd - was

The annual report, released last week through a presentation to the Board of Supervisors by Agriculture Commissioner Henry Gonzales, also contained a few other surprises.

That strawberries values would fall in 2013 had been forecast by Gonzales: the top crop since 2002 - when strawberries replaced lemons in the number one spot - the value for the red fruit declined by 12 percent due to poor weather and other impacts including severe Midwestern storm activity that depressed the market as well as those living in the Midwest.

It was only the second time the value of strawberries declined, but at the 2013 revenue of $608.8 million the fruit did not damper the county’s overall $2.1 billion value, a 6.7 percent increase over 2012.

The strength of the bounty of the county surprised Gonzales who admitted he had even thought the overall value would decline “because strawberries took such a big hit... but this was a record year for us.”  

The Santa Clara River Valley is a big grower of avocados, which Gonzales said soared in value by 85 percent to become the county’s #2 crop for the first time, displacing lemons also heavily grown in the Heritage Valley. 

Historically, avocados hovers around 6th place among the county’s top 10 crops and last year was booked at 5th place.

The value for avocados rose to $209.7 million as production abounded in an alternate-bearing year boosted by great weather, an increase in avocado per-acre production, acreage planted and that resulted in a dizzying higher per-ton value in 2013.

The California Avocado Commission has reported that Ventura County had 17,000 acres but the county’s new crop report lists avocado acreage at 20,161, many of those acres formerly growing Valencia oranges and other citrus.

Raspberries were 3rd at $196.4 million; nursery stock was 4th at $190.8 million; lemons’ 5th place ranking was valued at $188.9 million; 6th place celery was valued at $180.8 million; tomatoes ripened at $72.5 million for 7th place; peppers were 8th at $52.3 million; cut flowers were 9th at $43.07 million and cilantro was 10th at $29.09 million.

Gonzales told supervisors except for the flip-flop with avocados and lemons, the rankings in the report were “in their respective places” as shown in the 2012 report.

He noted that although the local surge in avocado production and values “seems humungous” another unnamed county had a 421 percent increase.

Raspberries had an increase in acreage but production declined and Gonzales said he expected lemons would not remain soured, as “This year looks good for lemons... “

Celery had a 35 percent increase in value although production decreased and tomatoes lost a “significant” amount of acreage, close to 1,000 acres that Gonzales said will now be planted with something else.

Peppers had an 8 percent increase; cut flowers were down 8 percent and cilantro value increased by 24 percent.

Honey production dropped 89 percent in 2013, with an 82 percent plummet in value to $300,000 from $1.7 million, a “huge” loss attributable to the three-year drought and its impact on wildflowers.

Bee populations aren’t necessarily dropping in the county, he noted, “But they could be... “ 

Gonzales told supervisors that Ventura County had 60,182 irrigated acres excluding roads, building areas and parking lots. The total number of acres, he noted, is slowly being replaced by development. 

San Diego continues to lead the state in farm production space, with 20,600 acres in 2013.

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