Consumer demand for organic foods is expected to continue growing rapidly in the U.S. and other major markets, and the competition for these markets is likely to increase considerably.
- Growth in organic agricultural production is taking place in both developed and developing countries worldwide, and the competition for major consumer markets in developed countries is increasing.
- Preliminary USDA estimates show that the value of organic imports into the U.S. far exceeds the value U.S. organic exports.
The U.S. does not have consistent data on organic trade because organic product codes have not yet been added to the U.S. and international harmonized system of trade codes. Preliminary estimates from USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service put the value of U.S. organic imports in 2002 at between $1.0 billion and $1.5 billion, while the value of U.S. organic exports was $125 million to $250 million. According to FAS, major organic imports include fresh fruits and vegetables, coffee, tropical produce, and other products not grown in the U.S., as well as processed food and ingredients for manufactured products. Import sources span Canada, Latin America, Asia, and Europe. U.S. organic exports include soybeans, food ingredients, fruit juices, frozen vegetables, and dried fruit. Export markets include Canada, Japan, the European Union, Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia.
Organic imports have played a significant role in the U.S. market expansion for organic products. Again, concrete data are not yet available, but FAS estimates that imports accounted for 12-18 percent of the $8.6 billion in U.S. organic retail sales in 2002. Organic imports from countries with lower labor and input costs have nearly replaced U.S. organic production in some commodity sectors. For example, U.S. organic cotton acreage has fallen substantially since the mid-1990s (see U.S. Organic Farming in 2000-2001: Adoption of Certified Systems, April 2003), even as the market for organic cotton has expanded with increased use by major clothing manufacturers.
USDA's organic rules streamlined organic import procedures, and over 40 foreign programs are currently accredited to U.S. standards. The U.S. also has recognition agreements on organic imports with six countries, including the UK. Many USDA-accredited certifiers also service U.S. organic exports, but exports must meet many different standards that typically vary across destination countries.