Analysis of the current fresh bell pepper market in the U.S.

Bell pepper is widely grown in the United States, although its production is mainly concentrated in California and Florida, with Georgia and New Jersey complementing it with slightly lower volumes.

However, bell pepper production in the United States has declined over the past 5 years, falling from 1,612 million pounds in 2017 to 1,124.5 million pounds in 2021, a drop of 30.2%.

As for the annual per capita consumption of fresh bell pepper in the United States, this has been relatively constant over the last decade, although with some ups and downs, going from 10.6 lb (4.8 kg) in 2011 to 11.3 lb (5.1 kg) in 2021.

Fresh bell pepper trade in the United States

In order to meet the constant demand in the fresh bell pepper market, each year the United States imports more bell pepper and, conversely, its exports have decreased.

This trend is easily seen in the following table, which indicates how bell pepper imports went from 1.46 billion pounds to 1.84 billion pounds between 2017 and 2021, a significant increase of 26.5% that has benefited growers from other countries, who have seen more and more opportunity in the U.S. fresh bell pepper market.

Imports and exports of fresh bell peppers in the U.S. (2017 -2021)

Year Imports Exports
Volume (million pounds) Value (million dollars) Volume (million pounds) Value (million dollars)
2017 1,457 1,049 106.8 78
2018 1,534 1,203 103.8 79
2019 1,612 1,358 103.5 81
2020 1,667 1,488 98.9 83
2021 1,843 1,583 102.9 77

Source: USDA-ERS/ProducePay 2022

Main suppliers of fresh peppers to the United States

The United States is the world’s leading importer of fresh peppers, and due to the constant demand in its market and the decrease in its domestic production, imports from the United States have increased year after year, having Mexico as its main supplier.

Main suppliers of fresh bell peppers to the United States (2018-2021)

Country Volume (million pounds)
2018 2019 2020 2021
Mexico 1,180.6 1,230.6 1,272.4 1,471.0
Canada 267.2 292.9 326.7 322.6
Netherlands 35.7 34.4 17.2 2.6
Honduras 15.5 18.2 21.1 18.5
Dominican Republic 8.5 11.4 10.9 15.3
Other countries 26.6 24.7 18.4 13.3

Source: USDA ERS/ProducePay 2022

Mexico

Mexico is the undisputed leader in bell pepper exports globally, so it is logical for it to be the main supplier of bell peppers to the U.S. market, with a volume of 1,471 million pounds in 2021, which represented 79.8% of total imports and a value of $1.164 billion.

In the last year, Mexico gained share in the U.S. market because its share of imports in 2018, 2019 and 2020 was 77.0%, 76.3% and 76.3%, respectively.

Therefore, Mexico seeks to continue consolidating its position as the main supplier of fresh peppers to the United States, although during the first quarter of 2022, the U.S. imports of Mexican bell pepper dropped 12.6%.

Canada

Canada is positioned as the second-largest supplier of fresh bell pepper to the United States, contributing 322.6 million pounds in 2021, which represented 17.5% of total imports that year.

This volume decreased 1.2% from the 2020 volume and had a lower value, going from $402 million in 2020 to $376 million in 2021.

Honduras

Until 2019, the Netherlands was in third position as a fresh bell pepper supplier to the United States. However, in 2020 imports from this country dropped drastically, and it was finally overtaken by Honduras.

In 2021 Honduras shipped 18.5 million pounds of fresh bell pepper with a value of $11 million, a volume 12.6% lower compared to the 21.1 million pounds shipped in 2020.

Price of imported fresh bell peppers in the United States

The average annual price for bell pepper imported by the United States has remained relatively stable in recent years, with a price of 0.82 usd/lb in 2018 and 0.88 usd/lb in 2021, although with an increase in 2020, when it was positioned at 0.92 usd/lb.

In 2021, the highest prices were reached in June and July, with 1.04 and 1.09 usd/lb. On the other hand, the lowest prices of the season were in March and December, with 0.71 and 0.76 usd/lb.

In general, prices tend to fall at the beginning of the year because this is when there is the highest volume in the market, as both production and imports are high, which causes supply to soar, while during the summer, as there is less supply, prices reach their peak.

Prices of fresh bell peppers imported by the United States (usd/lb)

SeasonJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecAnnual
2018 0.70 0.64 0.73 0.71 0.84 1.05 1.03 0.86 0.75 0.83 0.84 0.81 0.82
2019 0.81 0.70 0.90 0.82 0.89 1.09 1.07 0.92 0.78 0.77 0.79 0.78 0.86
2020 0.80 0.77 0.78 0.85 1.05 1.13 1.13 1.01 0.85 0.91 0.91 0.83 0.92
2021 0.86 0.79 0.71 0.82 0.92 1.04 1.09 0.93 0.83 0.95 0.88 0.76 0.88
Monthly 0.82 0.76 0.80 0.83 0.95 1.09 1.10 0.96 0.82 0.88 0.86 0.79 0.89

Source: USDA-ERS/ProducePay 2022

Summary

The United States has experienced a steady decline in bell pepper production in recent years, a situation that, together with the constant market demand for the product, has led the country to increase its imports year after year, with Mexico being the main supplier of this product.

Moreover, it seems that these imports will continue to increase, something that could imply a great growth opportunity for the countries that supply fresh bell peppers to the United States.

Do you want to know more about the production and trade of bell peppers? Download and review our analysis of the crop to learn more. Download it here!

Sources:

USDA-NASS. Vegetables Annual Summary – Bell Pepper

USDA-ERS. Vegetables and Pulses Data – Data by Commodity – Peppers, bell

Statista. Per capita consumption of bell pepper in the United States

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