Imports exceed export gainsU.S. imports of fresh produce increased at a faster pace than U.S. fresh produce exports in 2013, according to the latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The 2013 value of fresh fruit and fresh vegetable imports increased at respective rates of 11% and 15%. In contrast, the value of U.S. fresh fruit and vegetable exports rose at corresponding rates of 3% and 11%, according to the USDA.

Total U.S. fresh vegetable imports totaled $6.75 billion in 2013, more than double exports of $2.39 billion. U.S. fruit imports topped $9.2 billion in 2013, compared with $5.05 billion in exports.

Bananas/plantains, with $2.15 billion in import value in 2013, accounted for 23% of all U.S. fresh fruit imports. Value of banana imports was up 3% and volume was 5% higher compared with 2012, according to the USDA.

At 30% of total U.S. fresh vegetable imports, tomatoes accounted for $1.97 billion in U.S. import value in 2013, up 6% compared with 2012. Volume was unchanged.

Imported commodities with better than double-digit growth in value in 2013 included grapes (14%), avocados (27%), citrus (26%), cucumbers (24%), asparagus (34%) and mangoes (25%).

Great grapes

U.S. exports of fresh fruit rose 3% in value and 1% in volume in 2013, while U.S. fresh vegetable exports rose 11% in value and 2% in volume.

Top U.S. fresh produce exports with better than 10% gains in value included grapes (14%), onions/shallots (17%), and lemons/limes (37%).

The top U.S. fresh fruits exported by value in 2013 were apples, followed by grapes, berries and oranges/tangerines.

Fresh apples, with $1.11 billion in export sales in 2013, accounted for 22% of total U.S. fresh fruit exports of $5.05 billion. For the year, the USDA said apple exports were up 3% in value and 2% in volume.

Fresh grapes showed strong growth in 2013, with $912 million in export value up 14% compared with 2012. Volume of U.S. grape exports was up 16% in 2013, and grapes represented 18% of total U.S. fresh exports.

Exports of U.S. berries gained 5% in both volume and value in 2013, at $754 million — 15% of all fresh fruit exports.