U.S. exports of fresh produce have been losing traction in European markets.

Exports to the 27 member states of the European Union declined 3.3% for fresh fruit and 8.9% for fresh vegetables from January 2005 through December 2009, according to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

Fruit exports to the European Union totaled $180 million in 2009, vegetable exports equaled $44 million.

Trade statistics show 2009 U.S. grapefruit shipments to the European Union totaled $47 million, down from $55 million in 2008 but up from $35 million in 2005.

Europe remains an important market for Florida grapefruit but supply has not been robust enough to build demand, said Bruce McEvoy, director of global affairs for Seald Sweet International, Vero Beach, Fla.  

“In citrus it is up to us to get the crop, but the demand exceeds supply right now,” McEvoy said.

 U.S. apple sales to Europe were $36 million in 2009, down from $44 million in 2008 and $46 million in 2005. Other leading exports to Europe include berries ($25 million in 2009), grapes ($21 million) and cherries ($16 million).

The recession in Europe played a role in trade conditions, the USDA said. Even so, Europe’s performance as an importer of U.S. commodities has not kept up with the rest of the world.

U.S. exports to all countries increased by 174% from 1979 to 2009, totaling $107 billion in 2009.  In contrast, exports to the EU alone declined 24%, from $12 billion in 1979 to $9.2 billion in 2009.

“These statistics are striking in that they suggest that the broader trend for U.S. exports to the EU-27 is one of decline while EU-27 exports have benefitted from the removal of market access barriers,” the USDA said.