The U.S. organic products trade deficit in 2018 reached its highest level ever of more than $1.6 billion, with organic imports reaching $2.2 billion, while exports came in at $619.6 million, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) trade statistics released Wednesday.
The value of U.S. organic imports in 2018 was up 8 percent compared to 2017, when the value of organic imports had soared 21 percent. Mexico remained the leading country of origin for U.S. organic imports in 2018, shipping over $317.7 million worth of organic commodities, up 14 percent over last year.
Peru is the second-largest shipper of organics to the U.S. market with $174.4 million worth of organic commodities, up 41 percent, while Brazil is the third-largest shipper of organics to the U.S. market with a value of $165.4 million, up 9 percent.
Big declines in organic livestock feed ingredients such as soybeans and corn from Turkey, which used to be among the largest of America’s organic food traders, have been supplanted by increased volumes from relatively newer trading partners, including Serbia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan shipped over $42.7 million worth of organic soybeans last year, up 195 percent. Ukraine also stepped up organic soybean imports by 648 percent, with a value of $26.3 million. Even China is ramping up organic soybean imports to the U.S. market in 2018, shipping over $4.8 million worth of product, a 295 percent increase.
For the first time, Serbian organic corn and soybean imports – valued at $16.8 million and $8.3 million, respectively – showed up in the U.S. market in 2018. The chief of the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) said in October reports of new organic corn imports from Serbia are generating “understandable fear of fraudulent imports.”
The USDA prohibits imports of certain grains and seeds such as corn and wheat seed from Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine.
Top 10 U.S. organic commodity imports in 2018 (by value and percent change from 2017):
- Organic bananas: $309.7 million, up 33 percent
- Organic Arabica coffee: $255.3 million, down 5 percent
- Organic soybeans (except seed): $203 million, down 24 percent
- Organic extra virgin olive oil (>18kg): $156.2 million, up 4 percent
- Organic sugar: $149.7 million, up 167 percent
- Organic extra virgin olive oil (<18kg): $147.2 million, up 7 percent
- Organic hass avocado: $124.7 million, down 7 percent
- Organic fresh blueberries: $117.4 million, up 167 percent
- Organic honey: $79.4 million, down 38 percent
- Organic corn: $74.4, down 38 percent
The USDA’s Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS), which began tracking organic commodities in 2011, contains just a fraction of the actual trade in organic products. Existing HS codes include mostly fresh and frozen organic products such as milk, fruits, and vegetables. In 2018, organic vinegar and substitutes was the only commodity added to the harmonized system (HS) codes list.
U.S. organic exports to Philippines up 592%
Meanwhile, the value of U.S. organic food exports in 2018 period increased 10 percent to $619.6 million.
Canada remained the largest export market for U.S. organics in 2018, accounting for $292 million, up 12 percent. Organic commodity exports to Mexico, the second largest destination market, dropped 19 percent to $108.6 million last year.
Organic exports to Japan were valued at $40.1 million, up 80 percent, making it the third largest export destination for U.S. organics. While U.S. organic exports to South Korea were up 59 percent to $38.1 million. Most notably, exports of organics to the United Kingdom were up 184 percent to $14.6 million, and exports to the Philippines were up 592 percent to $10.2 million.
Top 10 U.S. organic commodity exports in 2018 (by value and percent change from 2017):
- Organic fresh apples: $74.5 million, down 22 percent
- Organic fresh grapes: $64.2 million, up 54 percent
- Organic lettuce (not head): $55 million, down 3 percent
- Organic fresh strawberries: $48 million, up 13
- Organic fresh spinach: $39.6 million, up 4 percent
- Organic carrots: $35.6, up 2 percent
- Organic fresh berries: $29.5 million, up 28 percent
- Organic vinegar and substitutes: $27 million, no previous data
- Organic tomato sauce (excl. ketchup): $27 million, down 3 percent
- Organic fresh blueberries: $21.5 million, up 42 percent