(Aug. 4) As Americans eat more fresh produce and less meat, expect the import share of the U.S. diet to continue to expand.

That was the conclusion of an U.S. Department of Agriculture report released in late July that estimated that the import share of fresh fruits has more than doubled from 9% in 1985 to 23% in 2001.

The USDA said that equally dramatic growth in import share of vegetables has occurred in the past decade. As a group, the import share for fresh and frozen vegetable rose from 8% in 1985 to 17% in 2001.

The USDA Economic Research Service report, authored by Andy Jerardo, said that total U.S. per capita consumption of food grew from an average of 1,800 pounds per year in the early 1980s to more than 2,000 pounds in recent years.

Consumption of fruits and vegetables rose 20% in the past 20 years, while consumption of animal products has only climbed by 7%. That long-term trend — a rising share of the American diet for fruits and vegetables at the expense of meat and dairy — suggests that off-season imports will continue to rise and represent a growing share of the fresh produce market, according to the USDA.

The import share for animal products, such as meat, dairy products and fish, has risen only slightly. In the early 1980s, the ERS said the import share for animal products was 3.4%. By 2001, the import share had barely budged, to 4.6%.

On the other hand, the import share for all crops and products, including fruits and vegetables, was 16% in 2001, up from 10% in 1980.