by | May 7, 2010 | Imports, Indicators

U.S. imports will include more fresh veggies and, especially, fruit

The U.S. Department of Agriculture current Long-Term Projection foresees U.S. agricultural import values rising to US$106 billion in fiscal year 2019, compared with US$79.3 billion in 2008. Strong growth in “horticultural imports” (fruits and nuts and vegetables) accounts for almost half of the projected increase in the next 10 years.

The U.S. was a net exporter of fruits and vegetables in the 1970s. U.S. imports and exports were more or less in balance in the early 1990s. Since then, the U.S. has been a net importer, and import growth has continued to outpace exports.

A key driver: Americans’ demand for fresh fruits regardless of the season, and a varied menu that includes plenty of tropical fruits that were rare luxuries not so long ago. A case in point: avocados.

The California Avocado Commission estimates that Americans consumed 84.1 million pounds of avocados just during this year’s Cinco de Mayo celebrations. At one billion pounds, annual U.S. consumption of the green fruit far outstrips domestic output: Mexico and Chile are the source for most avocados eaten in the U.S., with Mexico supplying almost 82% of this import (by value), and Chile close to 18% last year, according to The Datamyne statistics.

Given the short shelf life of fresh produce, most U.S. fruit imports originate in the Western Hemisphere. See the Datamyne Top 5 Sources for U.S. Fresh Fruit Imports. Bananas are the top trade product, by volume and value. But avocados rank second, and mangoes, plantains and papayas make the top 20. For still more evidence of a changing national diet, see What’s for Dinner, Since 1909.

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