Fruits, the dietary staple enjoyed by people world wide, grow on vines, plants, shrubs and trees around the world. Conversations about different types of fruits take many forms. Botanists, for example, approach the topic of fruit definition starting with a plant's reproductive features. From a botanical point of view, the presence of seed in mustards, grains, nuts, some vegetables places them in the fruit category.
Nutritionists often discuss fruit types in terms of their specific health benefits. Current USDA dietary guidelines, for example, recommend eating two cups of fruit each day.
Fresh fruit retail prices often drive industry fruit discussions. Because of their reliance on environmental factors such as climate, disease and pest management, retail price variations can fluxuate on a yearly basis.
The chart at the top of the page addresses those potentially trend distorting, yearly statistical price fluxuations. It provides a five year retail price/pound average for seven mass marketed fresh fruits: apples, pears, bananas, seedless grapes, grapefruit, lemons and oranges. Four average price/pound ranges, $.50/lb, $1.00/bl, $150/lb and $2.50/lb stand out.
Bananas, the least expensive of the selected fruits sell for an average of $.50/pound, with fairly stable prices from 2009-2013. Seedless grapes, the most expensive mass marketed retail fresh fruit reached the $2.50/pound price range by 2013, with the price growing steadily over time.
Apple, pear and lemon prices hover around the $1.50/pound range. Grapefruit and orange prices remained fairly stable, hovering in the $1.00/pound range. Source: ERS - Fruit and Tree Nut Yearbook October 2011
No few sentences of introduction adequately addresses the importance of grapes, the legendary vine fruit, with a cultivation history paralleling the history of human civilizations.
More than fifty different grape varieties grown in the United States, and most of the grape harvest goes to the wine industry. The chart shows a ten year history of growth in domestic per capita grape consumption, starting at the fifty pounds per person range in 2004 and ending at the sixty pounds per person range in 2013. Wine accounts for two thirds of that consumption, or approximately forty pounds per capita.
Consumption of fresh grapes, raisins and juice all sit below the ten pounds per capita consumption. However, taken together they account for most of the reaming consumption mark.
Trade and environment issues started gaining mainstream attention in the beginning of the 1990s, in the wake of the now (in)famous General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Tuna/Dolphin decision. In this particular case, the WTO ruled the US policy of banning imports of tuna from states that used purse seine fishing techniques to catch tuna, and subsequently kill dolphins, violated the terms of GATT. The ruling struck a raw nerve among the flipper generation and provided the impetus for bringing the issues associated with trade and the environment to national attention.
The decade came to a close with the 1998 WTO ruling against a US ban on shrimp imports caught without Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs), equipment developed to help save endangered sea turtles.
Trade in avocados provides another interesting twist to the standard trade and environment story.
Sometimes consumer fruit trends can sneak up on you. That's the case of the American taste for avocados. We slowly start using guacamole as a dip that compliments the basic nacho refried been dip. Then we began adding slices of avocados to sandwiches like we use to add pickles. Finally we notice that Avocados regularly appear on the grocery list. How did we get from there to here?
The statistics presented in the chart help answer the question. Between 1980 and 1995, avocado consumption remained fairly stable with domestic supply, in the 500 million pounds per year range. The longer term (33 years) avocado consumption trends took a different path, up wards. The blue line, for example, shows the total domestic avocado production, in the 500 million pounds range. It pretty much stays the same throughout the time period, with slight changes in production over time, due primarily to seasonal factors.
The orange line shows the total supply of avocados to the United States during that same time increased over three fold, to now just under 2 billion pounds per year. The growing gap between the blue and orange lines starting in the post-1995 time frame indicates the increased importance of avocado imports to meet market demand.
Climate requirements restrict growing avocados to the south, and it stands to reason that imports would come from southern states. The second graph confirms that intuition. It's a ten year graph showing the states that imported avocados to the United States. Originally Chile and Mexico shared the avocado import market. Over ten years, Chilean imports dropped to levels shared by minor importers such as Peru and the Dominican Republic. At the same time, imports of avocados from Mexico increased substantially, from a range of 300 million pounds to over 1 billion pounds.
A changing climate also adds a twist to this particular trade and environment story. There's little doubt that NAFTA, and lower transportation costs provided Mexican avocado growers with a competitive advantage. That advantage accounts for much of the change in the avocado trade over the past thirty years. A changing climate also means the possibility of prime avocado growing areas changing over the next thirty years, and consequently change avocado trading patterns over the next thirty years.
© 2004-2016 Patricia A. Michaels.