Imports' share of total domestic food consumption was relatively low in the 1970s and 1980s, but that share is rising. Imports of fish and shellfish, many fresh fruits and vegetables, fruit juices, tree nuts, and salad and cooking oils account for particularly large shares of domestic consumption. Many agricultural imports with a large share of domestic consumption are products the United States does not produce in large quantities, such as bananas or coffee. 

All U.S. agricultural import groups have continued to grow since 1990. By far the largest U.S. agricultural imports are horticultural products, which since 2002 have accounted for about half of all U.S. agricultural imports. Horticultural products include fruits, vegetables, nuts, wine, malt beverages, and nursery products. Much of these imports come from two leading suppliers, Canada and Mexico. The North American Free Trade Agreement is partly responsible for expansion of this type of trade between Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

Sugar and tropical-product imports have exceeded livestock and livestock product imports since 2005. Most sugar and tropical products—such as coffee, cocoa, and rubber—come from Indonesia, Canada, Brazil, and Mexico. Animals and animal products are next in importance among U.S. agricultural imports. Canada, Mexico, and Oceania are large suppliers of animals and animal products to the United States.

In the last decade, U.S. imports came primarily from Canada, Mexico, the European Union, Australia, Brazil, and China. The top import sources have varied little since 1990, but imports from the European Union are slowing, while imports from Canada, Mexico, and the rest of the Americas are increasing. Imports from China have been rising steadily since 2001. (For data on top import sources, see Top 15 U.S. import sources by fiscal or calendar year).

Sources of Growth in U.S. Agricultural Imports

The value of U.S. agricultural imports has expanded since 2000, with significant growth across bulk and high-value product categories. Processed high-value products like coffee, wine, and malt beverages continue to account for the largest share of U.S. agriculture imports, although raw and semi-processed high-value product imports like rubber and rapeseed oil are also registering strong growth.

High-income countries have historically supplied most U.S. agricultural imports, but with relatively strong growth in imports from upper middle-income countries since 2000, high-income and upper middle-income countries are now equally important suppliers for the U.S. market. Since 2000, upper middle-income countries have become increasingly important sources of U.S. imports of raw and semi-processed high-value products. High-income countries remain the most important source of U.S imports in the largest agricultural import category of processed high-value products.