Organics don’t dominate in the fresh produce aisle, but produce is by far the leading organic food category with 43% of organic food sales in 2012 being fresh fruits and vegetables, according to the Nutrition Business Journal.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture cited the journal’s statistics in its “Organic Market Overview” earlier this year. The government agency does not track sales of all organic commodities, but relies on industry and academia to provide some statistics on organic sales.
However, citing increasing popularity among consumers, the USDA is expanding the number of organic items it tracks, according to an article in the agency’s Amber Waves publication. The agency did not specify what commodities are being added.
“Each new organic product added to the trade code system must meet minimum requirements on product value and the number of importers and exporters,” according to Amber Waves. “In 2013, the value of tracked U.S. organic exports was $537 million, and the value of tracked U.S. organic imports was $1.4 billion.”
The U.S. and Europe are the two largest markets for organics, according to data the USDA quoted from the Swiss Research Institute of Organic Agriculture. The U.S. is also a major exporter of organic foods, with fresh produce topping the list, according to USDA.
“Fresh and chilled fruits and vegetables accounted for over 90% of the nation’s $537 million in organic export sales last year,” according to USDA’s Economic Research Service. “The top three U.S. organic exports, in value, in 2013 were apples, lettuce, and grapes. Similarly, apples and grapes are among the top three conventional fresh produce exports.”
Of the organic exports in 2013 that USDA tracked, 83% went to Mexico and Canada. An organic equivalency program with Japan that went into effect earlier this year is expected to further boost U.S. exports of organic produce.
“U.S. organic exports grew 25% between 2011 and 2013, with a rise in fresh apple exports to Mexico accounting for much of this increase,” according to the Economic Research Service.
In 2013 bananas and mangoes continued to be the top organic produce imports for the U.S. with $259 million in bananas and $101 million in mangoes coming to the U.S. last year. The U.S. imports organic foods from almost 100 countries, with Mexico in the No. 1 spot.
Mexican imports accounted for 11% of the tracked organic food products in the U.S. in 2013. Rounding out the top supplying countries were Italy at 10%, Peru at 7% and four countries tied with 6% each — China, Colombia, France and Guatemala.