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
- 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
- Preliminary USDA estimates show that the value of organic
imports into the U.S. far exceeds the value U.S. organic
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
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.