Avocados Top Bananas In U.S. Fruit Imports
Ranked by value of trade, avocados moved up to No. 1 among U.S. fruit imports in 2017 and are holding a lead over bananas, formerly the most valuable fruit import, so far in 2018.
Long the top among U.S. fruit imports, bananas have ceded the lead to avocados. Based on value of trade, avocados accounted for 20.3%, while bananas claimed a 16.3% share of $12.992 billion in U.S. fresh fruit imports in 2017, according to Descartes Datamyne U.S. trade data.
To be sure, bananas are still top of the bunch when it comes to sheer weight, accounting for 41.2% of fresh fruit volume, measured in kilograms, versus 7.7% for avocados arriving in the U.S. last year. In this ranking, pineapples weigh in at No. 2, accounting for 9.9% of total volume in 2017.
But rising demand for the pricier green fruit, combined with relatively flat growth in consumption of less costly bananas, has lifted avocados from third-ranked by value in 2013 to No. 1 in 2017.
We’ve used 2013 as a benchmark because the latest revisions of Harmonized System – HS – codes designating these products were fully implemented that year.
Other changes revealed by the 5-year data: Avocados vaulted from No. 3 in 2013, past bananas and grapes. Blueberries edged up from No. 5 to No. 4. Raspberries, well down the 2013 ranking at No. 10, moved to No. 5 in 2017. Fourth-ranked in 2013, pineapples slipped to sixth place in 2017.
Avocados Lead U.S. Fruit Imports
According to Descartes Datamyne’s U.S. import data, as recently as 2016, U.S. banana imports eclipsed avocados. In 2017, banana imports clocked a modest increase of 1.2% against a surge of 37.7% for avocados, and the ranks were reversed, as the data shows:
The available data for 2018 shows avocado and banana imports running neck-and-neck, with avocados slipping behind bananas in the second quarter. Through July, the total value of avocado imports stands at $1.371 billion, compared with $1.331 billion for bananas.
U.S. Fruit Imports Deliver Seasonal Fruit Fresh Year-Round
What’s driving the growth in avocado imports?
On average, Americans are actually eating less fruit, especially homegrown varieties. According to U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Economic Research Service (ERS) data, U.S. consumption of fresh and processed fruit fell to 115.4 pounds per person in 2015 from a peak of 137.4 lbs. in 1999.
At the same time, U.S. consumers are happy to pay more for out-of-season favorites and once-exotic fruits that can be shipped in from abroad. Earlier this year, the New York Times reported new data from the ERS indicating imports now account for most of the fresh fruit – 53.1% as of 2016 – eaten in the U.S.
Falling trade barriers have opened the way for blueberries in December as well as mangoes, papayas, guavas and kiwi fruit. According to the NYTimes, the USDA has issued some 100 new rules over the past two decades clearing the arrival of more foreign crops in U.S. markets.
Then there are the free trade agreements that created concessions for cross-border commerce in agricultural products. Avocados are a poster child for the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement, with Mexico dominating U.S. avocado imports with an 89% share of FOB value in 2017. Other top countries exporting to the Unites States are Peru (6%) and Chile (4%).
In 1994, the year NAFTA was signed, U.S. consumption of avocados averaged a bit more than one pound per year per person; however, in a trend no one could have predicted, avocados have fast become a U.S. consumer favorite and annual consumption has grown to little over 7 lbs per person.
Meanwhile, bananas may be facing some U.S. consumer market headwinds. As the Produce Retailer reports, there are indications that younger consumers are passing on bananas: The Packer’s 2018 Fresh Trends survey found that only 64% of consumers in that cohort bought bananas in the past year, compared with 80% of older shoppers, and 76% of all shoppers.
Still, not all is bleak for bananas. U.S. consumption of bananas dwarfs avocados with an annual consumption average of 28 lbs per person per year. The biggest challenge for bananas than consumer tastes will be finding a substitute for Cavendish bananas. That variety dominates exports but is vulnerable to the latest-generation crop-destroying fungus, Tropical Race 4, or TR4. Ironically, the Cavendish was introduced in the mid-20th century to replace a variety devastated by first-gen fungus TR1.
U.S. Fruit Imports: Lifting South-North Trade
The rising tide of U.S. fruit imports has been a boon to south-north trade. As the fruit-growing seasons turn in the U.S., production shifts to Mexico, Central and South America. While the U.S. imports fresh fruits from every continent, most arrivals ship from within the hemisphere, U.S. import data from Descartes Datamyne shows.
Descartes Datamyne Latin American trade databases provide additional insight into emerging trends in agricultural exports from 17 leading trade nations, including top fruit sources (in order) Mexico, Chile Guatemala, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras, Colombia, and Argentina.
A closer look at our trade data from Mexico, for example, reveals that while the lion’s share of Mexican avocados exports ship overland to the U.S., efforts to cultivate new markets are paying off.
Between 2013 and 2017, the U.S. share of Mexican avocados slipped very slightly from 77% to 76%, but exports grew 131%, gaining US$1.4 billion in total value and shipped to 17 additional markets, led by Argentina, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
The top Asian market for Mexico’s avocados, Japan, ranked third among all markets (behind the U.S. and Canada) last year, posting a gain of 74% over 2013. Japan’s 6% share of Mexico’s avocados exports in 2017 was a couple of percentage points off 2013 – points picked up by other Asian markets. In the same period, shipments were up sharply to China (1,156%) and Hong Kong (496%), Singapore (3,683%), and South Korea (6,714%).
Also on the rise were shipments to the Netherlands (4,885%), global entrepot and currently the world’s second-ranked by value (behind the U.S.) importer of avocados. The Netherlands sourced just 1% of its avocads from Mexico in 2013; in 2017, Mexico’s share hit 8%.
Our partner-sourced Mexican data can fill in the details of shippers, importers, commercial values and logistics for marketers and purchasers looking for opportunities to sell or buy in this trade.
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Date posted: October 15, 2018