Less than one in ten fresh apples eaten in the United States in the last five years was grown abroad, figures from a USDA report show.
That’s up from an average of one in twenty in the 1980s.
But while imports are a growing presence in the US fresh apple market, they are still small relative to domestic production, according to the publication ‘Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook: Economic Insight US Fresh-Market Apples’.
It says the the US is a leading importer of fresh apples and the amount of globally sourced fresh apples in the US has risen significantly since the 1980s – from an average 237 million pounds in the 1980s to almost 400 million pounds over the last 5 years.
“Record imports were reported in 2003/04 at 472.7 million pounds. Import share of domestic fresh apple use has risen from a 5% average in the 1980s to around 8% over the last 5 years.”
Chile the US’s main foreign source of fresh apples
With counter seasonal production, Chile accounts for over 60% of total import volume, making it by far the US’s top foreign source of fresh apples.
It has emerged as a strong supplier over the past decade having “successfully developed a more export-oriented apple industry and benefited from the growing demand in the Northern Hemisphere for off-season fruit.”
New Zealand, Canada and Argentina account for most of the rest of US fresh apple imports.
Imports continue to be concentrated over the US summer but the combination of new varieties with later harvest dates and the increased use of more sophisticated storage technology have enabled the US apple industry to move domestic apples more evenly across the marketing season.
“Even in summer months when import volumes are increased, domestic production dominates fresh apples shipped throughout the year.”
Five countries – Mexico, Canada, India, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates – account for more than half of US apple exports, with Mexico alone taking more than a quarter.
More than 60% of the total export volume for the marketing year is shipped between October and the following March, partly coinciding with the fall harvest.
High hopes for more exports to China
The report says a bright spot in US apple exports is the prospect of future sales increases to China.
“The 2015/16 season will be the first full marketing year with expanded market to China and already, export volume this season through January is 98% higher than the same time in 2014/15. The US apple industry estimates that within two years, exports to China will reach a value of nearly $100 million per year.”