Fresh produce is unloaded from a Seatrade ship at the Gloucester Marine Terminal

targeting the U.S market. Colombia’s position reflects that of growers in other countries. While Colombia is a major banana and fresh flower source for North America, the U.S. is a dream market for producers of other commodities. Even for bananas, Colombian produce export volumes histori - cally have been heavy to the European market. But those exporters are making a concerted effort to develop sales to the U.S., according to Giovanni Andrés Gómez, executive director of the National Association of Foreign Trade (Anal - dex), a non-profit entity promoting Colombia’s exports. Like many other countries around Latin America, Co - lombia is working to gain USDA phytosanitary clearance for various items like lemons, mangos and passion fruit to be exported to the U.S. Such goals will take years, but when they are achieved they will open up opportunities for ex - porters to ship even more produce to the market. What the future holds Looking ahead to the coming several years, agricultural imports to the U.S. are expected to remain strong, accord - ing to a USDA report published in February 2022. The re - port says the value of U.S. agricultural imports is projected to increase by an average annual rate of 6% through 2031, “as domestic consumer spending is expected to remain strong over the next decade combined with domestic pref - erences for an array of agricultural goods that continue to exceed domestic production.”

Agricultural imports are forecast to rise by 60% from $163.3 billion in 2021 to $261.3 billion by 2031. The vast majority of that growth is set to come from horticultural products, with other agricultural categories like grains and feeds, and livestock, dairy and poultry, all forecast to be relatively flat. Imports of fresh fruits and vegetables are forecast to rise by 48 percent from $26 billion in 2021 to $38.5 billion in 2031. Importantly, the report notes that the nearly $100 billion increase forecast in agricultural imports between 2021 and 2031 would be the smallest 11-year percentage increase going back to 1990–2000. So even though volumes are still set to rise significantly, it is not expected that they will grow quite as fast as they have done over recent decades. In any case, with global production of many fruit and vegetable items set to rise substantially over the coming years, it remains to be seen just how aligned rising import volumes will be with rising demand. If the former outpaces the latter, it could lead to significant pressure on the market. However, there is no doubt that fresh produce imports will continue to remain strong over the coming years. “We want to believe that good business will prevail,” Gray says. “I think that it is going to be very interesting to watch to see if global production — and especially Southern Hemi - sphere production — takes the point of view that North America is going to be their new beacon of hope.”

20 Vision Magazine

December 2022

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