Plenty of pumpkin for the holidays, October 26, 2010
by Jay Sjerven

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It’s fall. Halloween pumpkins may be seen for sale outside grocery stores and at farmers’ markets across the country and home bakers should find plenty of canned pumpkin on grocery shelves for the holiday season. Pumpkin production has rebounded from last year’s weather-reduced level.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture officially estimates pumpkin production only after a year ends. But asked what pumpkin watchers might expect this year, an analyst for the U.S.D.A.’s Economic Research Service, based on

expectations for at least three-year average yields and three-year average acreage, preliminarily estimated pumpkin production this year at around 10,500,000 cwts, which would be up 13% from 9,313,000 cwts in 2009 and mark a return to more normal levels.

Last year, pumpkin production was reduced because of lousy weather both during planting and harvesting. Much of the crop was planted late, and heavy rains that persisted during the harvest prevented many pumpkins from being picked and processed. The result was canned pumpkin supplies during the holiday season last year were limited and supplies after the season dried up altogether.

Growing conditions this year weren’t great. Again there was rainy weather during the planting season, and a rapid turn to hot and dry weather in July and August in principal growing areas, especially Illinois where over 90% of pumpkin for canning is grown, pushed the crop to mature earlier than was optimal. The result may be a crop of middling quality. But harvest weather has been outstanding, allowing producers to maximize their outturn.

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