( File photo )

The latest fiscal 2019 trade estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture raise predictions for fresh produce imports compared with a November forecast but keep the estimate for fresh produce exports stable.

U.S. imports of fresh fruit in fiscal 2019 (year ending Sept. 30) are projected at $13.7 billion, up $600 million from both the November estimate and fiscal 2018 imports. Trade statistics from the USDA showed October-November U.S. imports of berries (excluding strawberries) totaled $623 million, up 25% from $498 million the same period the previous year.

The USDA said imports of fresh vegetables are projected at $8.4 billion for fiscal 2019, up $100 million from the previous estimate and slightly higher than U.S. fresh vegetable imports of $8.36 billion in fiscal 2018. For October and November, the USDA reported U.S. imports of fresh peppers totaled $210 million, up 8% from the same period the previous year. Value of fresh tomato imports in October and November totaled $374 million, up 3% from year-ago levels.

Export outlook

Meanwhile, fresh fruit and vegetable exports, at $7.4 billion, are forecast unchanged from the November estimate, according to the USDA, and up from $7.29 billion in fiscal 2018.

USDA trade statistics show that U.S. apple exports in October-November 2018 were $151 million, down 26% compared with $202 million for the same period the previous year.

Whole and processed tree nut exports are pegged at $9.1 billion, also unchanged from November’s estimate but up from $8.76 billion in fiscal 2018.

Processed fruit and vegetable exports are unchanged from the previous forecast of $7.2 billion and are up from $7.03 billion in fiscal 2018.