Category Archives: Distribution

Fresh broccoli from Mexico now plays an important role

The Eastern Broccoli Project is intended to supply some of the growth in broccoli consumption in the East. The bulk of supply comes from coastal California in the summer and the desert southwest in the winter. But now, imports from Mexico are playing a greater role.

When the project started in 2009, Mexico was not a significant supplier of fresh broccoli to the East. That has changed. The volume from Mexico to the US is over $200 million per year. The frozen market is almost entirely from Mexico and Central America.

Fresh wholesale value is up from $60 to 250 million. Frozen has risen from $250 to $350 million.
The total value of imported fresh broccoli has quadrupled over the past ten years. Current imports represents about one fourth of the total wholesale volume. That amount can put pressure on prices. Frozen has risen modestly.
The wholesale price has risen from $0.30 to $0.50 since 2008
The wholesale price of imported broccoli has been rising steadily.

Mexican imports primarily compete with winter production in Florida and Georgia. The volume in the winter months has been rising over the last five winters, more than the summer imports. Growers in those areas are also expressing concern about the effect of the USMCA trade deal, fearing that it would allow dumping in their market.

Eastern production is closer to the Northeast market than either Mexico or the desert, but it is significant. The distance to the terminal market in Bronx NY from Hastings, Florida is 1000 miles in 15h of driving.  From San Luis Potosi, Mexico is 2400 miles in 36 hours, and from Yuma, Arizona is 2600 miles in 39 h.

Demand peaks at 60 million pound in January and bottoms in July at 20 million pounds. is fairl
Winter is the peak of fresh broccoli imports, but there is significant volume all year. The quantity shipped in January and February has been increasing most.


Volume varies modestly between 40 and 60 million pounds with peaks in March and October
Frozen broccoli imports are fairly stable throughout the year, reflecting a continuous consumer demand.

There are some facilities to freeze broccoli in New York. Developing a frozen deal for New York growers would be needed for a customer like a school system that specified New York broccoli under the farm-to-school program, but needed ready-to use product in their kitchens during the school year. The frozen-food giant Bonduelle raises and freezes broccoli in Québec, so the economics can be made to work nearby.

Thanks to USDA-ERS economists Kamron Daugherty and Broderick Parr for compiling this important information.

Quality standards for local broccoli

Excellent thesis work by Carol Jiayi Dong and Phil Coles was just published in the Journal of Food Distribution Research

Article title

The article, titled Produce Buyer Quality Requirements to Form an Eastern Broccoli Industry is available open access at JFDR.

The article show that wholesale buyers expect broccoli to look familiar. Local variants with slightly different color or flower-bud size were acceptable only to natural food reseller, not at standard supermarkets. The challenge for a new region is to meet standards that were developed for other production areas.

Carol is currently pursuing her PhD in ag economics at UC Davis, Phil is  a professor of practice in business at Lehigh University.

Webinar: Raising organic broccoli in the East

We invite interested eastern growers and distributors to participate.

Wednesday January 23, 12:00 – 1:00 pm EST

Click here for the full recording. The hamburger menu on the video lets you move to specific sections of the webinar.

Eastern buyers are eager to source more Organic broccoli locally. Fortunately, broccoli is suited to Organic practices. Nevertheless, meeting that demand will require efficient production.

This webinar will cover management approaches for Organic production that help production efficiency. Prospective growers will come away with a better sense of how to achieve success, and current Organic broccoli growers are likely to pick up some useful ideas to increase their profitability.


  • Jeanine Davis, Margaret Bloomquist and Richard Boylan, North Carolina State University, experts on organic production systems
  • Thomas Björkman, Cornell University. Vegetable physiologist
  • Bryan Brown, NYS IPM. Weed management specialist and expert on organic weed management
  • Jill Eccleston, Cornell University, Integrated control of emerging insect pests


  • Organic nutrition for a nitrogen-hungry crop
  • Weed management in high fertility and short season
  • Insect management amid many hungry pests
  • Varieties suitable for organic production in the East
  • The market for organic broccoli

Join the webinar by clicking this link: on a computer, tablet or smartphone. To test your Zoom connection in advance, please visit It may take a minute or so to install the small software.
To get the audio only on a telephone, call +1 646 876 9923 and enter meeting id 855304241

Sponsored by the Eastern Broccoli Project (a multi-institutional project funded by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Specialty Crop Research Initiative).

Recent prices in the east

An individual grower may see price offers that seem inconsistent. While wholesale broccoli prices vary greatly among markets and with time, terminal market prices can provide a view into what is going on regionally.

The price has had a floor around $15 per box in recent years, with unpredictable spikes. Most eastern growers find $15 a break-even proposition and need a higher price to justify raising the crop. Selling continuously to catch the spikes is one way to obtain a higher average price.

Terminal market prices in the East. Mean value for all Eastern terminal markets for crown-cut broccoli. Source: USDA AMS Market News

In 2016, prices remained low throughout the year. It was a tough year to expand production. Fortunately, prices recovered in 2017.

For more see our Wholesale Prices page.

Dr. Fan moves on after making strong contributions to broccoli economics

Eastern Broccoli team-member Xiaoli Fan defended her PhD dissertation on July 24th. She is joining the faculty in Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology at the University of Alberta. Congratulations, Xiaoli!

As a graduate student in Applied Economics with Prof. Miguel Gómez at Cornell, she made big contributions to the project. First, studied seasonal effects on market efficiency of broccoli, finding that local production made the markets more efficient by reducing the likelihood of excess supply. Second, she

Xiaoli Fan (left) successfully defended her PhD on July 24, 2017. Her work on broccoli distribution channels will be continued by master’s student Carol Dong (middle), under Prof. Miguel Gómez (right) in the Dyson School at Cornell. Dr. Fan has taken a faculty position at the University of Alberta.

studied consumers’ willingness to pay for local broccoli in eastern markets finding that there is a price premium in markets where the “local” attribute is valued in general. Finally, she developed a model for finding the optimum location for cooling infrastructure that would serve multiple farms by optimizing the type of equipment to fit the scale of production, as well as the distance to farms and to markets.

Her work is the basis for current and forthcoming work with producers and food hubs. Some of that work will be done by our new team member, Carol Dong. Carol has been visiting growers and food hubs already to analyze systems and cost structures.

Gómez in London to talk about expanding locally grown

The Perishable Pundit highlights Miguel Gómez’ upcoming presentation at the London Produce Show. PP Jim Prevor summarizes it as The Renaissance Of The Wholesale Sector — Why Those Who Support ‘Locally Grown’ Should Support Investment In Market Intermediaries.

The wholesale produce trade that is present at the New York and London Produce Shows is keenly interested in the economic results coming out of the Eastern Broccoli Project. Prevor writes “[Gómez] has been a superstar in New York, informing, educating and beguiling industry members.”

Miguel will explore the dilemma faced by farmers who are serving their local consumers through farmers markets and CSAs.

The goal is to connect local food systems to the mainstream distribution system. Markets where consumers buy directly from farmers are very limited in terms of volume, availability, and in terms of sustained economic viability for the farmer, who lives only out of these markets.
Margins are very thin, and the markets are easily inundated with excess supply. So the markets are restricted on the amount of farmers that can participate in going direct to consumers.

The concept does not fit the normal narrative for either the farmers market community nor the supermarket community. Therefore, bringing change that benefits consumers, small farmers, and supermarkets will take transdisciplinary assistance of the kind we have been developing in the Eastern Broccoli Project.

What do Eastern consumers want?

Prof. Miguel Gómez, team member in the Dyson School of Applied economics is determining what qualities Eastern consumers look for in their broccoli, and what variation from the Western standard they accept. The results will inform the breeding process, and perhaps identify types that will be well accepted in the US East Coast that are not accepted in East Asia.

With graduate student Xiaoli Fan, he is running auctions of broccoli types to asses consumer’s relative willingness to pay for different appearances.

Consumers were presented with three types of broccoli for consideration. A: New type with large beads and lighter green; grown in New York. B: Perfect appearance by current standards, but has been shipped across country; grown in California. C: Conventional broccoli with mixed large and small flower buds, a defect common in the East; grown in New York.
Consumers at each station have small parboiled samples of each broccoli. Many find that the local broccoli has a milder and fresher flavor.
Xiaoli Fan (right), a doctoral student on the project, leads the experiment. Graduate assistant Adeline Yeh presents head of the three types to consumers for inspection as they prepare to bid.
Consumers on the panel are members of the community. Students were excluded, since they were not considered representative broccoli purchasers.

Webinar on U.S. Food Distribution System

One goal of this project is to increase the availability of eastern-grown broccoli in eastern markets. But how does that broccoli get from the site of production to the point of purchase by consumers?

In a webinar available for viewing on the project website, economist Miguel Gómez discusses the history and evolution of the U.S. food distribution system, the organization and behavior of its three main channels, and the role of intermediaries in bringing food products from the farm to the American table.

Case studies explain how one retail chain has impacted the structure of the distribution system; why changes in product supply are not always reflected in retail prices; why sales of private label products are growing; and how Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs have increased opportunities for growers to market directly to consumers.

The presentation includes an exploration of trends in food expenditures and concludes with projections from industry executives on expected changes in retail food distribution.

To stream the webinar or view a pdf of the slides, visit the project reports page of the website and click on the appropriate link.