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 percent).
Most Export-dependent Fruit and Tree Nut Products, 2008-10
|Average percent of domestic supplies exported|
|Canned sweet cherries
|Canned tart cherries
|Source: USDA, Economic Research Service calculations.
Fresh 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 Korea.
Frozen 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 fairly steady.
Canned 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.
Dried 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.
Fruit 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 juices.
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.
Tree 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.
Fruit. 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. cantaloupe imports.
Tree nuts. 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.