(Aug. 9) In all trade, it is said, there are winners and losers.

That’s true for the nations and individual industries, not to mention companies within those industries, playing under the rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

But one thing is clear: Agricultural trade, particularly that involving produce, has increased dramatically since the 1994 implementation of NAFTA, the trade treaty between Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

A recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service said Canada and Mexico were the origin of 35% of the U.S. agricultural imports in 2000 and the destination of 28% of U.S. ag exports during the same year. A decade earlier, Mexico and Canada were the origin of 25% of U.S. ag imports and the destination of 17% of U.S. exports.

Those are significant increases — both ways.

Export and import numbers for fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables also have increased dramatically between the NAFTA nations. In 1997, for example, the U.S. imported 4.1 million metric tons of produce from Canada and Mexico, a figure that rose 15.5% to nearly 4.8 million metric tons last year. U.S. exports to its two neighbors were almost 2.9 million metric tons last year, an increase of 24.1% over 1997’s total of 2.3 million metric tons.

That’s not to say that various segments of the U.S. produce industry haven’t been hurt since the inception of NAFTA. They have.

But others have prospered.

That’s the nature of trade. And that’s the nature of the world in the 21st century.