U.S. exports of horticultural products in Fiscal Year (FY) 1996 reached a record $9.4 billion, up 4 percent from FY 1995 and the twelfth consecutive year exports have increased. At $2.5 billion, Canada continued to be the top market for U.S. horticultural exports, although 1996 purchases were down slightly from FY 1995, due partly to lower U.S. vegetable prices and inelastic demand. The European Union (EU) regained its place as the second largest market with $2.0 billion, up 12 percent from FY 1995. Exports to Japan decreased slightly to $1.8 billion in FY 1996, pushing that country to third place. Other Asian tigers, Hong Kong ($534 million) and Taiwan ($353 million), ranked as the fourth and fifth top U.S. horticultural product customers. Fresh fruits were the largest component of U.S. horticultural exports in FY 1996. At $2.0 billion, this sector represented over 20 percent of all U.S. horticultural products exported in FY 1996. Other major commodities contributing to the export increase included tree nuts ($1.4 billion), up 24 percent; wine and beer ($674 million), up 8 percent; and juices ($665 million), up 5 percent. The implementation of GATT Uruguay Round Agreements (especially tariff reductions), a general improvement in world economies, and the promotion of U.S. products under the Market Access Program have contributed to the increase in U.S. horticultural product exports.
Raisin and sultana production (packed weight basis) in selected Northern Hemisphere countries in 1996/97 is forecast to drop nearly 6 percent to 474,000 tons. Decreases in Turkey and Mexico account for the decline. Northern Hemisphere exports in 1996/97 are forecast to fall 18 percent to 277,000 tons. Turkey and Mexico account for the decline in exports. Although the volume of U.S. raisin exports was down in 1995/96, the value of exports reached a record $199 million. Major U.S. markets included, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, and Germany. The volume of U.S. raisin exports in 1996/97 is forecast to approximate last year's level due to stable supplies and net unchanged demand in export markets.
The 1996 forecast for world table grape production in selected countries is 8.3 million metric tons, up 3 percent from the 1995 harvest. Larger crops in Greece, Italy and Spain should offset slight decreases in production in Mexico, France, and Argentina. Table grape exports in 1996 for the selected countries are forecast up 11 percent from a year ago, to 1.75 million tons. U.S. table grape exports jumped off to a promising start for the period January through September 1996 with exports up 18 percent. However, exports are expected to slow at the end of the season because of a shorter than anticipated pack, and diversion of grapes to meet the increased raisin and wine demand. Chile's 1996 export estimate was increased 13 percent to 490,000 tons, based on a larger harvest and strong international demand.
The United States and Israel recently completed negotiations on the U.S.-Israel Agreement on Trade in Agricultural Products that aims to boost agricultural trade between the two countries. Implementation of the Agreement, which provides for immediate access for some U.S. horticultural products, is scheduled to begin on December 4, 1996. Under the Agreement, all products are covered in one of three categories: (a) products free from duty or other restrictions; (b) products imported duty-free within a specified tariff-rate quota (TRQ); products subject to preferential tariff treatment. The greatest gains for U.S. horticultural products will be derived from the category of products entering duty-free within specified TRQ's. Horticultural commodities with potential that will benefit from duty-free TRQ's are apples, grapes, pears, citrus, and selected fresh and frozen vegetables.
New Zealand's kiwifruit exports in 1996 are forecast at 205,000 metric tons compared with 190,137 tons shipped in 1995. Despite a strong currency, and increased shipping costs, New Zealand kiwifruit sales from January-September, 1996 are running 11 percent ahead of the same time period a year ago.