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An ag futurist offers a ?very positive? forecast for U.S. horticulture as
American consumers seek healthier, more secure, and more attractive
lifestyles, January 2005 by Martin Ross.
Lowell Catlett, ag econ omist with New Mexico State University, is a
featured speaker for the 2005 Illinois Specialty Crop Conference and Trade
Show Jan. 20-22 at Spring field?s Crowne Plaza Hotel and Con vention Center.
Over the past decade, Catlett noted the U.S. fresh fruit and vegetable
market has seen double-digit growth as a result of a new level of health
consciousness linked to an aging population and changing attitudes about
?In almost every major diet, including the low-carbohydrate Atkins diet,
fresh fruits and vegetables have a place,? he told FarmWeek.
?And the number of vegetarians in the United States has doubled in the last
decade ? it?s now 2 1/2 percent of the population. That?s still a small
market, but we expect it to double again within about six to eight years.?
Catlett also attributes growth to ?smarter producers? who recognized most
organic vegetables ?looked like hell? and found ways to raise produce that
appeals to the consumer eye. That?s helped move organics from the back shelf
to a prominent place in high-end supermarkets, he said.
He foresees increased U.S. interest in ?nutragenomics,? which uses genetic
science to tailor foods for consumers with special nutrient needs or who are
allergic to certain foods.
The concept has taken hold in Europe: Catlett argued Europeans are not
unequivocally opposed to biotechnology, but instead seek to genetically
modify produce for health benefits rather than to boost yields or enhance
Trends such as nutragenomics, along with food safety concerns, will foster
new linkages ?from production to consumption? and generate producer
marketing and branding opportunities, he said.
For example, the ability to trace asparagus from a Chicago restaurant to the
farm where it was produced not only would contribute to food safety
assurances but also enables producers to meet changing customer demands.
Product personalization has extended to the retail sector. Some chains such
as Whole Foods already identify farms that raise specific products ? ?You
see video of animals growing and the family that?s raising them in
supermarkets in Germany and France,? Catlett said.
Meanwhile, the ornamental market, from nursery plants and cut flowers to
decorative gourds, is ?exploding,? he said. Affluent consumers are
?upgrading their aesthetic needs,? resulting in nearly double-digit growth
in decorative plant and produce sales over the last 15 years.
?People aren?t content any more just to have the usual things in their
environment,? Catlett maintained.
?That?s true not just in homes, but also in community rights-of-way and
public spaces. The ornamental market?s been phenomenally good, and there?s
no end in sight in that arena.?
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