John Giles, Promar International
John Giles, Promar International

Fruit exports from Latin America have been booming during the past 10 years.

This looks set to grow in the future, with overall volumes from a cross-section of countries, including Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Argentina, having increased (across all horticultural categories), and to all markets, from some 45.7 million metric tons to just under 82 million metric tons.

This represents almost a doubling of the total volume of exports in just a 10-year period.

While all international markets have seen their imports from these Latin American suppliers increase, the growth in some international markets has been especially impressive.

Exports to Asian markets have increased by 173% over this 10-year period, and exports to Australasian markets have increased by some 156%.

To Africa, the increase in Latin American trade has been a staggering 2,500%, but from a low base.

Exports to the European Union from Latin America have increased by around 75%, to the U.S. by 90% and to the Middle East just under 70%. Regional trade to other neighboring Latin American countries has increased by some 30%.

The general wisdom these days is that the real growth in exports will come from fast-emerging markets, especially in Asia.

While it is true that exports from Latin America have increased to Asian markets from 2 million metric tons to more than 5 million per year, the reality is that regions such as the EU and North America still account for 32% and 45% of overall exports.

Interestingly, these proportions have remained relatively unchanged over the past 10 years.

Latin American exports to neighboring markets account for 12% of exports.

The Middle East is still less than 2%, Asia around 7% and Africa and Australasia less than 1% of overall exports.

The EU, U.S. and Asia are clearly the big opportunity areas for the forthcoming period, but interest in nontraditional markets, not least in Africa, cannot be ruled out either for future opportunities.

So for all the talk of the future for international fruit suppliers (and not just in Latin America) being in the emerging markets, the real picture is somewhat different.

EU and U.S. markets are still of critical overall importance to Latin America and will continue to be so in the future.

While it is only right that new opportunities are sought out in the emerging economies (and Latin America has been as successful here as anyone), there is danger that by switching commercial, technical and promotional attention to these markets too quickly and too exclusively, hard-won markets in more mature economies are neglected.

This would be a mistake and there is a clear need to adopt a well-defined portfolio approach to international markets based on the maxim of “how much we want these respective markets,” and, just as importantly, “how much they really want U.S.,” and adopting a strategy of “maintain, build, invest, or, lastly, treat as opportunistic only.”

This can only be achieved by examining and researching key opportunities and developing a high level of economic, political, social and market understanding.

With new market opportunities opening up around the world all the time, only investment in this type of analysis can see growers and exporters pick the right markets at the right time.

This is perhaps the greatest challenge of all for the Latin American fruit supply chain.

John Giles is a divisional director with Promar International, an agri-food value chain consulting firm and a subsidiary of Genus PLC, Basingstoke, England. He is also the current chairman of the Food, Drink & Agricultural Group of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and can be contacted at

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