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 occurring 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). For organic exports, the number of tracked products expanded from 23 in 2011 to 33 in 2016. For organic imports, tracked products increased from 16 in 2011 to 31 in 2016. Some of the tracked organic commodities—especially imported ones—have more than one variety due to high demand for differentiated goods, as can be seen in the following linked tables.

  • U.S. organic exports that are tracked—mostly fruit and vegetables—reached $548 million in 2016 (see the table on Organic Trade, "exports" tab). Top U.S. organic exports (in value) in 2016 were apples, grapes, and lettuce. Although the United States exported organic products to 79 countries, Canada and Mexico accounted for 70 percent of the value of tracked U.S. organic exports in 2016. Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea were also among the United States' top trade partners for organic products in 2016.

  • U.S. organic imports that are tracked equaled $1.65 billion in 2016 (see the table on Organic Trade, "imports" tab). Top U.S. organic imports in 2016 included bananas, coffee, and olive oil (all of which the United States does not produce in large quantities), as well as corn and soybeans (to meet growing demand for organic livestock feed). Turkey, Mexico, Italy, Peru, and Ecuador supplied 43 percent of tracked U.S. organic imports. In 2016, 87 countries supplied the tracked organic products to the United States.

To help open new markets for organic farmers and handlers in the United States, with multiple foreign governments to establish international trade arrangements for organic products. These efforts 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.

Last updated: Tuesday, August 20, 2019

For more information contact: Bryce Cooke, Gustavo Ferreira, and Catherine Greene