The Monterey County crop report for 2020, released on July 20, explained the challenging tale of ‘the year of Covid’ in detail. Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales spoke of the $3.9 billion year. He said this is the first time since 2011 the gross value of agricultural production, including crops and livestock and poultry, fell below the $4 billion mark. “We had the greatest loss ever, not only in percentage production at about 11.3 percent, but also in value at an almost $500 million loss.”
This year, strawberries surpassed leaf lettuce as the leading crop, with almost $1 billion gross revenue. Gonzales said strawberries had their ‘best year ever’ and he attributed it to the increase of acreage dedicated to the fruit, as well as good prices. Strawberries saw losses of $16 million during the first two months of shelter-in-place. Later on, the industry experienced a surge in consumer demand.
Organic production (measured both sales and cultivated acres) grew in 2020 from $562.7 million to $757.8 million. Exports, measured in pounds, also increased. Grapes were heavily affected by wildfires; sales decreased 43 percent ($80 million less than 2019), said Kim Stemler, executive director of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association. The reduction was due to three main factors: damaged grapes due to wildfires; lack of testing capacity to determine quality of grapes and crop insurance requirements.