U.S. Lettuce Exports Continue to Blaze Trail in 1999/2000
U.S. exports of lettuce through the first five months of the current marketing year were at record levels, a continued growth trend of recent years fueled by strong demand and competitive prices. A decline in export sales to Hong Kong (the United States' largest Asian customer), Japan and Mexico, was more than offset by increased shipments to Canada, Singapore and Taiwan.
U.S. Lettuce Export Situation
Through November of MY 1999/2000 (July-June), U.S. exports of fresh lettuce totaled a record 116,446 tons, valued at $61 million, up five percent in both volume and value from the same period of the previous year. U.S. lettuce exports in 1998/99 totaled a record 308,828 tons valued at $154 million, up over three percent in volume, while down nearly 12 percent in value from 1997/98. The top U.S. markets (in rank order) were Canada, Mexico, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore, which collectively accounted for 99 percent of the total export volume. While Canada continues to dominate the landscape, accounting for over 80 percent of annual U.S. lettuce exports, shipments to certain other key markets have shown significant growth. Exports to Mexico, the United States' second largest market in 1998/99, registered their highest volume to date at 22,806 tons valued at $8.6 million, up from 17,229 tons valued at $7.0 million in the previous year. Meanwhile, shipments to Hong Kong, the third largest market, totaled 14,708 tons valued at $8.4 million, down 22 percent in volume and 28 percent in value, a reflection of the general economic downturn in the region.
U.S. lettuce dominates the import market in a number of the key importing countries. In 1999, U.S. share of total fresh lettuce imports were as follows: Canada, 99 percent; Mexico, 100 percent; Japan, 99 percent; and Taiwan, 92 percent.
Growth Opportunity for U.S. Lettuce in Japan
Excellent opportunities for fresh crispy-type U.S. lettuce are believed to exist in the food service sectors of a number of Asian countries, notably Japan. Although its phytosanitary import requirements remain a formidable barrier, Japan represents a potentially huge and largely untapped market.
Japan's $4.8 billion sandwich/hamburger market, with 6,800 restaurants nationwide, is growing at a rate of five to seven percent per year, helping to fuel the rising demand for U.S. lettuce. The country is unable to produce the U.S.-type iceburg lettuce because of its high-humidity climate.
In 1998/99, Japan's imports of U.S. lettuce, mostly retail sector sales for household consumption, totaled 5,457 tons valued at $7.1 million, up 41 percent in volume and 103 percent in value from 1997/98.
|U.S. Lettuce Exports by Country of Destination|
|July-June Marketing Years|
For more information, contact Emanuel McNeil at (202) 720-2083.