Featured Produce News

U.S. Celery Industry at a Glance

September 03, 2015

Celery Harvest Techniques, Statistics and Reports  

 

 
2014 Crop Year, Celery

Value

$ 307.3 million

 

Production

1.84 billion lbs

(834,290 MT)

Domestic Consumption/For Processing

1.68 billion lbs

(763,370 MT)

Exports

271.5 million lbs

(123,169 MT)

Imports

115 million lbs

(52,249 MT)

Harvested Acres

28,900

 

Data Source: FAS, USDA; NASS, USDA

About Celery

Celery is a cool-season crop that is a member of the parsley family.  Most celery produced in the United States is a variant of the Pascal (green) stalk. Celery has a very lengthy growing season and a very low tolerance for both heat and cold.  Celery seeds like to be planted shallowly in rich and nutrient soil.  The seeds are minute and difficult to plant.  Many growers will mix the seeds with sand and then sprinkle the sand/seed mix over the land.  Celery plants thrive most when they receive six hours of sunlight a day but are shaded during the hottest part of the day. The taste of the celery will be stringy or dry if the plants do not have constant moisture and are exposed to any kind of drought.

For the fresh vegetable market, celery should be harvested within a small number of days after reaching the market standard size.  If this is not done then the quality deteriorates. Growers schedule plantings to cultivate standardized lots that reach marketable size on, approximately, a weekly basis. The product must be carefully handled and should never be stacked more than four high in from-field transport, storage, or shipping crates. Typically fresh celery stalks are packed in an upright position in their crates and require regular temperature and moisture management to guarantee marketable quality. Celery as a rule is stored and, when possible, transported at 34 degrees Fahrenheit and 85 percent relative humidity.

Celery is not targeted by many insects, and it is rare that insects cause severe crop yield loss. Nevertheless, under a few conditions, the tarnished plant bug and carrot rust fly can cause substantial injury. Also, the larva of the black swallow-tail butterfly attack celery but are not very harmful. All of these pests can easily be controlled by using insecticides. Celery is also prone to injury by several diseases including late blight, early blight, black heart, and root knot. Late blight causes small brown spots to appear on the leaves, which later coalesce, and the whole leaf can become dehydrated and die. 

There are three main varieties of the celery plant:

  • Celeriac - commonly known as celery root. When fully grown, the celeriac root can be the size of a large potato. The flavor is mild, and is usually processed for flavoring soups, casseroles, and mashed and served as a side dish.
  • Celery Stalks - traditional form of celery from a garden and the most common of the three plants in the United States. The plant does not grow very well in extreme climates.
  • Wild Celery - is not something usually grown in a garden. It is nothing like the celery most of us are used to seeing because it is generally found growing underwater. This is not an edible variety and found normally as filtration in ponds.

Celery leaf and seeds are valued for their bulk vitamin and mineral contents. Celery is an excellent source of vitamin C and a very good source of dietary fiber, potassium, foliate, molybdenum, manganese and vitamin B6. Celery is also a good source of calcium, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, magnesium, vitamin A, phosphorus and iron. Celery also contains approximately 35 mg of sodium per stalk. The nutritional composition varies with variety, region, and part of the plant and age of the product.

Celery seed, generally imported from France and India, is an important but lesser used flavoring and garnish herb. The seed has a comparable but more powerful aroma than the root. Both the seed and the root products are produced from varieties unlike those used to produce the "fresh" vegetable product. The seed and the root can be ground and mixed with salt to form the profitable celery salt formulations sold all over the world. Usually, celery salt is made from celery root extract to facilitate easier adjustment of the flavor level.

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) established grade standards for celery in 1959.  The grade standard states that acceptable celery “consists of stalks of celery of similar varietal characteristics which are reasonably well developed, reasonably well formed, fairly well trimmed and are free from blackheart and soft rot and free from serious damage caused by freezing, growth cracks, horizontal cracks, pithy branches, seed stems, dirt, doubles, wilting, blight, other disease, insects or mechanical or other means. Stalks shall be green unless specified as fairly well blanched, or mixed blanch.” It then ranks celery with either U.S. Extra No. 1, U.S. No 1, or U.S. No 2. 

In 2004, AMS also established grade standards for frozen celery.  The grade standards ranks frozen celery with either a US Grade A, US Grade B, or Substandard. 

To view the grade standard for celery, click here.

To view the grade standard for frozen celery, click here.

 

U.S. Production

In 2014, the United States harvested 28,900 acres of celery producing 1.84 million lbs of celery crop with the farm gate valued at $307.3 million.  Celery production has remained fairly stable in the last decade.  Most celery produced in the United States is sold in the fresh marketplace, but a fraction is processed for use in prepared foods like soups, juices and convenience dinners. California and Michigan are the two primary states that produce celery for the fresh market and processing in the United States.  California produces more than 90 percent of the domestic crop.    In 2014, California harvested 27,200 acres producing 1.74 million lbs.  Michigan harvested 1,700 acres and produced 98,500 million lbs.

 

2012/13 Major Players in Apple Market Click on U.S. Celery Production Graph to Enlarge.
Prepared by FPP using data from NASS, USDA.

At one time, Florida was a major producer of celery.  Up until 1994, Florida harvested between 7,000 and 13,000 acres of celery.  George M. Talbott, the former general manager of the Florida Celery Exchange, wrote a two page report on The Rise and Fall of the Florida Celery Industry from 1895-1995.  Mr. Talbott discussed six main reasons why the Florida celery industry faded including freezes, aggressive pests, short range objectives, and competition from the western states that could produce celery more consistently and of better quality.  

To read the complete report of The Rise and Fall of the Florida Celery Industry 1895-1995, click here

 

U.S. Celery Trade

The United States is a net exporter of celery. In 2014, the United States exported 271.3 million pounds of fresh celery valued at $81.9 million. Canada buys approximately 75 percent of the fresh U.S. celery exports.  The United States also exports a marginal amount of celery seed.  In 2010, the United States started monitoring exports of organic celery. 

 

2012/13 Major Players in Apple Market Click on U.S. Celery Trade Graph to enlarge.
Source: FAS, USDA

The United States imported 115.2 million lbs of celery (fresh and other) valued at $29.4 million in 2014; 108.5 million lbs ($22.9 million) was fresh. The United States, since 2010, has consistently exported more celery then it has imported. The majority of imported celery enters the United States between August and mid April. Approximately 89 percent of the fresh celery imports come from Mexico. In 2013, the United States value for 125,117 MT of product peaked at $97,838.

2012/13 Major Players in Apple Market Click on U.S. Organic Celery Export Graph to enlarge.
Source: FAS, USDA.

The top five export markets for U.S. organic celery are Canada, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, and Mexico.  In 2013, U.S. organic celery exports to Canada, Taiwan, and Japan hit all-time highs peaking at 11,264 MT.  Canada was the largest importer of U.S. organic celery at 4,047 MT, Taiwan followed as second at 2,651 MT, and Japan came in at a close third at 2,568 MT.

Trade Associations

American Spice Trade Association, Inc. – Celery Seed

More Information on Celery

Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, Economic Research Service, USDA
Global Agricultural Trade System, Foreign Ag Service, USDA
Celery Production, North Carolina State University
Vegetables Annual Summary, National Ag Statistics Service, USDA.
Vegetables and Pulses Yearbook Data, Economic Research Service, USDA 2013
2015 North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual
1961 Abstract Phototoxic Bullae Among Celery Harvesters

 

 

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