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Global trade analysis shows Chile still at the top of the list

Global trade flow in fruits and vegetables is shaped by various factors, including geographic proximity, trading arrangements, and historical and political elements. This trade has grown rapidly since the 1980s, and that growth has been accompanied by changes in the commodity composition and spurred by varying regional varieties and seasons for fruits and vegetables, which stimulates trade.

According to Global Trade Patterns in Fruits and Vegetables, archived in April-June 2008, a report lead by Sophia Wu Huang, an economist with the Market & Trade Economics Division, Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Southern Hemisphere countries play a vital role in making the year-round supply of fresh fruits possible.

Wu Huang stated in her report that the crop production cycle opposite to that of the Northern Hemisphere makes the year-round supply of fresh fruits possible.

"These countries have taken advantage of the seasonal differences to expand their exports, particularly for many temperate-climate fruits," she stated. "The market for off-season fruit imports in the Northern Hemisphere continued growing in the 1990s, after a fast expansion in the 1980s, as several Southern Hemisphere countries boosted their fruit production."

The report noted that during 1999-2001, Southern Hemisphere fresh fruit shipments accounted for 19 percent of the value purchased by the world's top 30 fresh fruit importers. Two major destinations for these fresh fruit exports were the European Union [43 percent] and NAFTA [24 percent, of which over 21 percent were to the United States]. The remaining import countries are in Asia and South America.

At the time of her report, Wu Huang noted that no country in the region has succeeded in topping Chile as the region's leading exporter.

"Chile accounted for nearly 35 percent of the value of fresh fruits exported by the Southern Hemisphere countries in 1999-2001," her report noted.

Although at the time of her research and report, nearly 60 percent of Chile's exports to the United States were grapes, constituting close to 70 percent of U.S. imported grapes during that period, Chile also accounted for virtually all U.S. imports of fresh plums, peaches and cherries. In comparison, three-fourths of Chile's fresh fruit exports to the E.U. were grapes, apples and pears.

However, things have changed somewhat since Wu Huang's research and report. In Nov. 2011, the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, an independent committee operating under the umbrella of the Chilean Exporters Association A.G., or ASOEX, reported that blueberry imports from Chile were gaining momentum. In the 2011-12 season imports increased nearly 12 percent over the prior year to 78,000-tons, with more than three-quarters of the total volume going to the United States.