Organic Trade

Consumer demand for organic foods is expected to continue growing rapidly in the United States 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, particularly the United States and Europe, is increasing.
  • In January 2011, the U.S. Department of Commerce added codes for selected organic products to the U.S. trade code system. USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) reports monthly trade statistics on these products in the Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS), (choose "Standard Query," and then "Organics-Selected" under Product Groups). The number of organic export codes expanded from 23 in 2011 to 26 in 2013. The number of organic import codes expanded from 20 in 2011 to over 30 in 2013.

  • The value of U.S. organic exports that are tracked—mostly fruits and vegetables—was $537 million in 2013 (see the ERS table on Organic Trade, see "exports" tab). Top U.S. organic exports (in value) in 2013 were apples, lettuce, and grapes. Exports to Canada and Mexico accounted for 83 percent of the value of tracked U.S. organic exports in 2013, although the United States exported organic products to over 80 countries. Japan, Taiwan, and Australia were also among the top trade partners.
  • The value of U.S. organic imports that are tracked was $1.4 billion in 2013 (see the ERS table on Organic Trade, see "imports" tab). Top U.S. organic imports (in value) in 2013 included bananas, coffee, olive oil, and mangos, which the United States does not produce in large quantities, as well as wine and soybeans. The top five countries, Mexico, Italy, Peru, Columbia, and France, accounted for 40 percent of the value of tracked U.S. organic imports. Nearly 100 countries supplied these selected organic products to the United States in 2013.

To help open new markets for organic farmers and handlers in the United States, USDA has streamlined trade with multiple foreign governments. These trade partnerships allow U.S. organic products to be sold as organic in Canada and the European Union, for example, without maintaining certification to multiple standards. Imported organic products must either be certified to USDA organic regulations or to an authorized international standard under an established U.S. trade partnership.