Exports of U.S. organic commodities to markets overseas dropped 9 percent to $85.3 million for the first two months of 2020, while the value of organic commodities crossing the U.S. border were up 8 percent to $403.3 million, according to USDA trade statistics released Friday.
2020 is seeing the reversal of import trends for organic livestock feed ingredients such as soybeans and corn, which registered declines of 18 percent and 27 percent, respectively, in 2019.
So far this year, organic soybean imports are up 7 percent and organic yellow dented corn is up 59 percent.
Russian organic soybean imports have soared more than 38,500 percent in the first two months of the year to $10.6 million; organic soy imports from Ukraine are up 35 percent to $8 million.
The big push of organic livestock feed ingredients from the Black Sea region exporters offset 46 percent drops in shipments from India and Argentina, previously the two largest organic soybean exporters to the U.S. market.
Over the past two years, nearly 75 percent of formerly certified-organic operations in the Black Sea region have either lost their USDA organic certificates through a suspension or revocation or surrendered them voluntarily, a spokesperson for the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) told Sustainable Food News in December.
An NOP report released last month said “more than 275 operations have exited organic certification in the Black Sea region.”
Another commodity experiencing huge growth in 2020 is organic dried yellow peas, which are the key ingredient for plant-based foods including burgers, bacon, tuna and yogurt.
Imports of organic yellow peas for the first two months of 2020 are up 93 percent to $4.2 million. The total value of imported organic yellow peas in 2019 was $5.8 million. The increase this year is driven mainly by an 87 percent boost in shipments from Russia and, for the first time, imports from the Black Sea region country of Moldova, which shipped over $570,000 worth of organic yellow peas.
Imports of organic corn for feed has soared 59 percent in 2020, as Argentina’s shipments jumped 51 percent, Mexican imports soared 364 percent and, to a lesser extent, imports of organic corn for feed from Romania, another Black Sea region country, increased 308 percent.
Meanwhile, Mexico remained the leading country of origin for U.S. organic imports during January and February, shipping to the U.S. market over $89.7 million worth of organic commodities, up 44 percent over the same period last year.
Peru was the second-largest shipper of organics to the U.S. market in Jan.-Feb. with $38 million worth of organic commodities, up 9 percent, and barely edging out Chile, which was the third-largest shipper of organics to the U.S. market with a value of $37.5 million, up 4 percent, with 99 percent of its exports being blueberries.
Top 10 U.S. organic commodity imports in Jan.-Feb. 2020 (by value and percent change from Jan.-Feb. 2019):
- Organic fresh blueberries: $65.4 million, up 17 percent
- Organic bananas: $48.5 million, up 26 percent
- Organic sugar: $40.9 million, up 2 percent
- Organic Arabica coffee: $35.1 million, down 16 percent
- Organic soybeans (except seed): $34.8 million, up 7 percent
- Organic fresh/dried Hass avocado: $28.4 million, up 32 percent
- Organic extra virgin olive oil (<18kg): $20.5 million, up 9 percent
- Organic greenhouse bell peppers: $18.7 million, up 31 percent
- Organic yellow dent corn, except seed: $13 million, up 59 percent
- Organic extra virgin olive oil (>=18kg): $11.2 million, up 17 percent
The U.S. organic products trade deficit in 2019 was just over $1.5 billion, slightly below the previous year, as organic imports were relatively stagnant at $2.2 billion, while exports were up 10 percent to $682.3 million. The scant 1 percent increase in U.S. organic imports in 2019, compares to an 8 percent rise in 2018 and a 21 percent jump in 2017.
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. The agency’s failure to keep up with the ever-expanding list of organic products available on the global market has resulted in huge gaps between actual trade and the data associated with HS organic codes.
The existing HS codes for organics – numbered at less than four dozen – include mostly fresh and frozen organic products such as milk, fruits, and vegetables. Just one commodity – organic vinegar and substitutes – was added to the harmonized system (HS) codes list in 2018, and none last year.
U.S. organic exports plunge 33% to Mexico in 2020
Shipments of organic commodities to the two leading export markets – Canada and Mexico – comprised nearly 80 percent of total U.S. organic exports in January and February.
Canada remained the largest export market for U.S. commodity organics in the first two months of 2020, with a value of $42.3 million, up 2 percent.
U.S. organic exports to Mexico, the second largest destination market, plunged 36 percent to $19.2 million in January. In 2019, U.S. organic exports to Mexico soared 76 percent to $190.8 million, a big reversal from 2018, when organic exports to Mexico had dropped nearly 20 percent.
Japan was a very distant third-largest export market for U.S. organic commodities in January and February with a value of $4.9 million, down 33 percent; again, a sharp reversal from the $52.8 million in U.S. organic exports to Japan in 2019 – a 32 percent increase over the previous year.
Top 10 U.S. organic commodity exports in Jan.-Feb. 2020 (by value and percent change from Jan.-Feb. 2019):
- Organic fresh apples: $20 million, up 1 percent
- Organic lettuce (not head): $9.4 million, up 16 percent
- Organic fresh/chilled spinach: $7.1 million, up 3 percent
- Organic fresh/chilled carrots: $6.2 million, up 6 percent
- Organic tomato sauce (excl. ketchup): $4.9 million, up 22 percent
- Organic fresh lemons: $4.4 million, down 11 percent
- Organic fresh pears: $3.6 million, down 30 percent
- Organic vinegar and substitutes: $3.2 million, up 70 percent
- Organic fresh oranges: $3.2 million, up 28 percent
- Organic roasted coffee: $3.1 million, up 10 percent