U.S. trade data shows fruit trade climbing, veggies softU.S. exports of fresh fruit were running nearly 12% higher through October while fresh vegetable exports were off almost 4%, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

USDA trade statistics also show growth in fresh fruit imports but slight declines in vegetable imports so far this year.

Total U.S. export sales of fresh fruit from January through October were $4.1 billion, up 11.6% from the same period a year ago. Apples account for about 20% of total 2012 U.S. fresh fruit exports so far, with oranges 16%, grapes 14% and cherries 12%.

Canada was the number one market for U.S. fruit exporters, taking $1.5 billion worth of U.S. fresh fruit, up 6.2% from a year ago.

The other North American Free Trade Agreement partner did much better, with data showing U.S. fruit exports to Mexico soared to $443 million, up 33% from the same period a year ago. Fruits with the largest export gains — apples, cherries, grapes and oranges — faced Mexican tariffs through late October 2011. The retaliatory tariffs were tied to a cross-border trucking program scuttled by Congress, but later reinstated.

Other notable markets showing double digit growth for U.S. fruit exports included South Korea, rising 46% to $335 million, and Taiwan, jumping 21% to $165 million.

U.S. exports of fresh vegetables, at $1.78 billion from January through October, were off 3.8% to all markets. So far this year, lettuce accounted for 20% of U.S. fresh vegetable exports, with potatoes 10%, onions 8% and tomatoes 7%.

Sales to Canada, the biggest export market for U.S. vegetable exporters, fell 7% to $1.34 billion. Sales to Mexico of $102 million were off 6.5%, the USDA said. However, sales to Taiwan rose 38% to $65 million, and sales to the United Kingdom jumped 22% to $28 million.

U.S. imports of fresh vegetables from January through October were $4.8 billion, down 0.5% compared the same period a year ago. Tomatoes account for 33% of U.S. fresh vegetable imports so far this year, with peppers 19%, with cucumbers 9% and asparagus 8%.

Imports from Mexico, accounting for the lion’s share of U.S. vegetable imports, were rated at $3.3 billion, down marginally from a year ago. Imports from Canada totaled $912 million, down 5%. Peru and China showed gains, with imports from Peru rising 12.8% to $197 million and fresh vegetable imports from China jumping 29.5% to $129 million.

The USDA reported banana and plantain imports were $1.74 billion from January through October, up 4.8% from a year ago.

Imports of all other fresh fruit totaled $4.7 billion, up 6.6% from the same period a year ago. Grapes account for 20% of fruit imports (other than bananas and plantains, which are combined in the USDA report), with berries (excluding strawberries) also close to 20%. Avocados account for 15% of U.S. fresh fruit imports, with pineapple 10% and citrus 9%, according to the U.S.

Imports of fruit from Mexico, the leading fruit supplier to the U.S., totaled $2.34 billion, up 15% from a year ago. Chile, the second leading supplier, provided $1.09 billion in fruit to the U.S., down 4.7% from a year ago.