Fact Check: Is There a Shortage of Canned Pumpkin This Year?
There is buzz on the Internet and around virtual office water coolers that there may be a shortage of canned pumpkin popular in fall baking. Shoppers have reported looking for their favorite brand on the shelves and notice it's just not there. Are we experiencing a canned pumpkin shortage?
The short answer: no.
"There is not a shortage [of pumpkins]," Raghela Scavuzzo, associate director of food systems development with the Illinois Farm Bureau, said in an interview with Allrecipes. "Just to be clear, there is not a shortage this year."
Raghela goes on to explain that there was a rain delay when it came time to plant pumpkin crops, which resulted in a later harvesting. She notes that while it may not have been a bumper crop and there is not an overabundance of pumpkins, "it is a very normal year and the supply is absolutely normal."
"I think that with COVID, people are going out a little early, they're starting their baking early, and usually by now you would see this year's supply [of pumpkin] out [on store shelves]," surmises Raghela. "This year's supply and inventory hasn't come in yet, but I know farmers with plenty of pumpkins on their fields."
One of those farmers is John Ackerman of Ackerman Family Farms in Morton, Illinois, a Central Illinois farm that dates back more than 100 years. Morton, where Libby's has a local pumpkin processing plant, is known as the "Pumpkin Capital of the World," and John says there is good reason for that proclamation.
"We get to claim that because, over the past decade or so, 80 percent of all canned pumpkin in the world, and 90 percent of the canned pumpkin in the U.S., comes from Morton," he told Allrecipes in an interview. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, 68,200 acres of pumpkins were planted in 2019 across the United States, with an estimated value of $180.2 million in total pumpkin production.
"As far as I know, there's not a pumpkin shortage," says John, a self-proclaimed pumpkin geek, or "professor of pumpkinology." More than 160 varieties of pumpkins, gourds, and squash are planted annually on his farm, and John estimates that about 30,000 pumpkins are harvested by hand every year for customers; processing pumpkins are harvested mechanically. A majority of the pumpkins found at Ackerman Family Farms are heirloom varieties, and the farms grows yellow, black, white, and blue pumpkins. John says the blue pumpkin, a Jarrahdale, has a very dense flesh that makes a wonderful soup.
"There was unusual weather; every year brings its own weather challenges," explains John. "We had a few rain delays planting, but that didn't effect the yield of the crop. It might have delayed it just a little bit, but really and truly we're having a terrific crop here at our place."
John notes that pumpkins generally like reasonably dry weather, and, as a long, low plant with big leaves, they are subject to fungal diseases when the weather is too wet. However, when the weather is dry, he says that the "plant has an amazing ability to set roots along the vine, and generally do quite a bit better when it's dry and when it's too wet."
"I think my friends in the area who have processing pumpkins are having at least average yields, if not better," he adds. "We're enjoying a really, really good harvest here."
"The team in Illinois is currently working hard harvesting Libby's pumpkins and canning for the upcoming season," says Justin Corrado, Libby's Brand Manager. "We typically begin shipping to retailers around this time for bake season, so you can expect to see pumpkin back on shelves over the next few weeks."
"There will be plenty of pumpkin for Halloween and Thanksgiving," Raghela assures Allrecipes.
More Pumpkin Content: