Exports account for a growing share of U.S. fruit and tree nut
supplies. Increased overseas promotion of U.S. fruit and
vegetables--through efforts such as the Market Access Program
(USDA, Foreign Agricultural Service)--has likely helped boost
foreign sales, particularly to Canada, the largest foreign buyer of
U.S. fruits and vegetables.
During the 1990s and into the end of the first decade of the
2000s, 11-12 percent of U.S. fruit and tree nut supplies were
exported, up from an average of 9 percent during the 1980s. This
share varies substantially among commodities and major aggregate
categories. In recent years, tree nut exports have been especially
strong. Nearly 50 percent of domestic tree nuts are exported,
followed by dried fruit (over 30 percent), and fresh fruit (over 15
Most export-dependent fruit and tree nut products,
|Average percent of
domestic supplies exported
|Canned sweet cherries
|Canned tart cherries
Source: USDA, Economic Research Service calculations.
fruit. U.S. exports of fresh-market fruit account for
about 15 percent of available supplies. In value terms,
fresh-market fruit exports (excluding melons) amounted to over $3
billion each year during 2008-10, capturing more than half of total
fruit exports (excluding tree nuts). The leading fresh fruit
exports are apples, grapes, and oranges (including tangerines),
with combined sales averaging over $1.5 billion annually, or about
half the value of fresh fruit exports. Apples and grapes averaged
over $700 million and over $600 million, respectively, in annual
export sales during 2008-10, and oranges, over $500 million. Export
sales of fresh berries, led by strawberries, more than tripled
between 2000 and 2010 for a combined value of over $500 million.
Canada is the leading destination for U.S. fresh fruit, generally
accounting for over one-third of all fresh fruit exports. Other
major markets are Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South
fruit. Exports have accounted for 2-4 percent of
domestic frozen fruit supplies annually since the 1990s. Canada and
Japan are the major destinations for U.S. frozen fruit exports, and
together accounted for about four-fifths of total annual export
volume during the 2000s. Berries are a major portion of frozen
fruit supplies, with strawberries and blueberries accounting for
nearly three-quarters of all frozen fruit exports. Overall, export
demand for U.S. frozen fruit has declined slightly during the 2000s
relative to the 1990s, with export volume averaging over 85 million
pounds (product-weight equivalent), down from around 90 million
pounds in the previous decade. Much of the decline reflects lower
exports of frozen strawberries during the early-to-middle part of
the first decade of the 2000s, especially to Japan where U.S.
exports have been pressured by lower-priced imports of frozen
strawberries from China and increased imports of ready-made jam
products, also from China. Most of Japan's frozen strawberry
imports are used for making jam products. More recently, frozen
strawberry exports to Japan have improved along with increases to
Canada and Mexico while frozen blueberry exports have remained
fruit. Exports of canned fruit ranged from 1-3
percent of available canned fruit supplies during the 2000s,
essentially unchanged from the 1990s. Canned fruits with the
largest percentages of domestic supplies exported during the 2000s
are sweet cherries (about two-thirds) and tart cherries (around
one-fourth). Canned peaches claim the largest quantity shipped to
foreign markets, although the volume exported often has been less
than 5 percent of available supply since the 1980s. Increased
foreign competition partly explains the lack of demand for U.S.
canned peaches. During the 1970s, Europe was the most important
export market for U.S. canned peaches. However, an expansion of
peach canneries in Europe, aided by subsidies and high tariffs,
contributed to a decline in exports to that region. Mexico and
Canada remain as major destinations for U.S. canned peaches, but
other markets such as Thailand, Guatemala, and China have grown in
importance during the 2000s.
fruit. Exports of dried fruit accounted for About
one-third of U.S. dried fruit supplies were exported during the
2000s, up slightly from the mid-to-late 1990s. Of the total U.S.
exported dried fruit, raisins compose about three-fourths, and
prunes, close to one-fifth. Japan was the leading destination for
U.S. dried fruit exports through most of the 2000s. Other major
markets have included the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany,
while recent large-growth markets include South Korea, Mexico,
Australia, China, and Russia.
juices. Less than 10 percent of domestic fruit juice
supplies during the 2000s were exported, not much changed from the
1990s. About half of U.S. fruit juice exports is orange juice,
although the United States is a net importer of orange juice.
Canada, the European Union, and Japan (only for grapefruit juice)
are leading markets for U.S. orange and grapefruit juices. Canada
and Japan are also major markets for U.S. grape and apple
Melons. The United States is among
the top melon exporters in the world, ranked third in watermelon
exports next to Mexico and Spain and fourth in cantaloupe and other
melon exports after Spain, Guatemala, and Brazil. Melon exports
increased slightly in share of U.S. melon supplies, from 3-4
percent in the 1970s and 1980s to an average 7 percent during the
2000s. Watermelons accounted for more than half of U.S. melon
export volume in recent years, averaging over 300 million pounds,
nearly one-tenth of the world's total. An overwhelming majority of
watermelon export volume goes to Canada, but Mexico and Japan are
also relatively important markets for the U.S. watermelon industry.
Canada is also the primary destination for U.S. cantaloupe exports,
with Mexico serving as a distant second.
nuts. The United States is second to China in
world production of tree nuts, producing more than one-tenth of the
world's tree nuts. Tree nut exports averaged over 45 percent of
U.S. tree nut supplies during the 2000s (up slightly from the
1990s) and more than 60 percent above the average share during the
1980s. Almonds formed nearly 70 percent U.S. tree nut export volume
in recent years, averaging over 970 million pounds (shelled basis),
or almost three-quarters of world almond exports. Following almonds
are walnuts and pistachios with over 10 percent and about 7
percent, respectively, of total tree nut exports. The major export
destinations for U.S. tree nuts are Spain, Germany, and the
Netherlands, in the European Union; Canada and Mexico, in North
America; and Hong Kong, Japan, India, China, South Korea, Vietnam,
and Taiwan, in Asia.
Although U.S. fruit exports have shown strong growth, the United
States has remained a net fruit importer. U.S. fruit imports rose
during the last three decades, partly owing to the growing minority
ethnic populations in the United States and to an increased demand
for new products. Not only have imports expanded for commodities
already produced domestically and created competition for U.S.
producers, but imports have also increased for nontraditional
fruits, especially many tropical fruits.
The recent growth in imports was evident in each of the fruit
categories (fresh, juice, canned, dried, and frozen). Frozen fruit
imports posted the strongest growth during the second half of the
2000s. Led by berries, frozen fruit imports more than tripled in
volume, and in terms of share of domestic consumption, they rose
from over 10 percent in the 1990s to around 30 percent in recent
years. More than half of the frozen fruit imports are from Mexico,
Canada, and Chile.
Domestic fruit imports continue to rise, especially in the
fresh, canned, and juice markets. U.S. markets for fresh and canned
fruit, as well as fruit juice, are the most dependent on imports to
meet domestic demand in recent years. Presently, nearly half of
fresh fruit, two-fifths of canned fruit, and about one-third of
fruit juice consumed in the United States are from imports.
Bananas claim over 50 percent of the volume of fresh fruit
imports. Excluding bananas, fresh fruit imports rose from 12
percent of domestic consumption in 1990 to around 25 percent during
2005-10s. Sold year-round in the domestic market, bananas rank
number one in U.S. per capita fresh fruit consumption, followed by
apples and oranges. To meet U.S. demand, bananas are imported,
primarily from Guatemala, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia, and
Honduras. Excluding bananas, fruit imports rose an average 7
percent annually over the past two decades.
Mexico is the largest supplier of fresh and frozen fruit to the
United States, accounting for over 30 percent the volume and over
30 percent of the value of fresh and frozen fruit imports
(excluding bananas). Mexico ships mostly limes, tangerines,
mangoes, grapes, pineapples, papayas, avocados, and strawberries.
U.S. production of these commodities--except for tangerines,
grapes, strawberries, and avocados--is minimal. Geographic
proximity and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) give
Mexico a competitive advantage over other exporting countries, with
lower transportation costs and lower or no tariffs.
Chile is also a major supplier of fresh fruit, with a 20-percent
share of the U.S. import market. Chile enjoys the advantage of
having a counter-seasonal production schedule with the United
States: its Southern Hemisphere location means that it can provide
fresh fruit at times when the United States produces little,
particularly from November through March. Expanded trade with
Chile--beginning in the mid-to-late 1980s--extended the
availability of certain fruits in the market without direct
competition with domestic production, and gave U.S. consumers fruit
choices beyond the traditional domestic winter fruits of citrus,
apples, and pears.
Important fruit imports from Chile are grapes, stone fruit,
avocados, and kiwifruit. Although small relative to the numbers of
most of these major fruits, blueberry imports from Chile boomed in
recent years, and Chile's share of total fresh blueberry imports to
the United States rose to an average of over 40 percent during the
mid-to-late 2000s, from less than 1 percent during the early 1990s.
Through much of the past decade, Canada was the leading supplier of
imported fresh blueberries to the United States, until 2007
when import volumes from Chile exceeded those from Canada. Lacking
direct competition with U.S. fruit producers, Chilean fruits face
relatively low tariffs.
Other fruit and fruit product suppliers to the United States
include Brazil (the largest supplier of orange juice), as well as
China, Argentina, and Chile (the leading suppliers of apple juice).
Western Europe is a major supplier of processed fruit products,
such as wine and fruit juices. Southeast Asia--specifically,
Thailand and the Philippines, for canned pineapple--provides the
largest share of canned fruit products.
Melons. U.S. melon imports have
trended higher over the past few decades. From the 1990s to the mid
2000s, cantaloupe import volume far exceeded watermelon imports.
Then, a surge in watermelon imports closed this gap. Presently,
watermelon and cantaloupe imports each hold a 40-percent share of
total import volume. The United States is the world's largest
importer of watermelons, with around 20 percent of total import
volume--followed by China, Germany, Canada, and Poland. Most U.S.
watermelon imports come from Mexico, with Guatemala, Honduras,
Costa Rica, and Nicaragua rounding out the top five sources.
Together, these same countries also account for nearly all U.S.
Throughout the 1990s to the end of the 2000s, U.S. imports of tree
nuts rose sharply, responding to increased demand. Cashew nuts
composed almost 50 percent of the volume of tree nut imports
(excluding coconut meat), followed by pecans (15 percent) and
Brazil nuts (6 percent). Historically, India has been the largest
supplier of tree nuts to the United States, accounting for nearly
half of cashew nut imports each year through the early 2000s. In
recent years, however, Vietnam has become a more visible player in
the U.S. cashew market. Vietnam is now the top supplier of cashew
nuts to the United States, accounting for around two-fifths of
total import volume, up from less than 10 percent in the
mid-to-late 1990s. Nearly all pecan imports come from Mexico, while
around half of the Brazil nuts imported in recent years have come
from Bolivia, which outranks Brazil as the number one supplier of
this nut to the United States.