U.S. fresh produce changes shape, direction

03/01/2013 09:46:00 AM
John Giles

United Kingdom direct imports of U.S. grapes have fallen from 14,000 tons down to 6,600 tons.

In terms of pear exports, U.S. trade has fallen slightly from just above 198,000 tons per year to just under this level.

Again, Mexico and Canada account for an impressive 65% of overall exports, but the real growth over a 10-year period is coming from increased exports to the likes of Brazil, Russia, Colombia, China and the Middle East.

For the cherry sector, U.S. exports are booming — up from 46,000 to 86,000 tons per year over a 10-year period. Japan and Canada still account for more than 50% of U.S. exports, but the long term growth is coming from Asia.

What does it all mean?

The historical view of the U.S. fruit sector was that with a huge domestic market to serve, it was more focused here than on exports. This has all changed, and with U.S. production often struggling to keep pace with other key producing regions, the U.S. industry has had to increasingly focus on its high quality, premium position in international markets. While the Canadian and Mexican markets are still of extreme importance, the real growth is coming from the emerging markets.

Europe is probably on the back burner.

And the role of the UK market in all of this change for the U.S.?

It is still seen as a flagship market, not least in meeting technical and environmental standards. The UK has now assumed the position of a classic “maintenance market” for most U.S. horticultural products.

Is the U.S. horticultural industry trapped in a domestic bubble? Not any more. It is now fully exposed to exactly the same pressures, opportunities and challenges as any other significant international supplier to the global fresh fruit market.

John Giles is a divisional director with Cheshire, England-based Promar International, an agri-food demand chain consulting company and a subsidiary of Genus plc. He is also the chairman of the Food, Drink & Agriculture Group of the U.K. Chartered Institute of Marketing.

john.giles@genusplc.com

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