Tropical fruits are an increasingly popular food and agriculture sector expected to grow upwards of 2% annually during the next several years, particularly due to sales in North American and European markets. Today, there are more than fifty varieties of tropical fruits that are traded regularly. Furthermore, the global trade of tropical fruits has increased from an overall value of US$4.1 billion in 2005 to approximately US$9.5 billion in 2015. The main tropical fruits that currently dominate global trade within this sector are avocados, bananas, pineapples, mangoes, and papaya. However, up and coming tropical fruits, whose demand is increasing in western markets, include dragon fruit or pitaya, naranjilla or lulo, lychees, durian, rambutan, guavas, passion fruit, sapodilla, mamey sapote, and jackfruit, amongst others. Within the tropical fruits sector, the largest global supplier is Mexico with US$2.3 billion worth of internationally sold tropical fruits during 2015, which equated to 25% of the sector’s global trade that year. Mexico was followed by Costa Rica, with US$1.2 billion worth of tropical fruits sold, and Peru, accounting for US$577 million. Meanwhile, in terms of tropical fruit imports, the largest market was Europe, which purchased US$3.9 billion or 41% of all international sales during 2015. This was followed by the United States, representing US$2.8 billion or 30% of tropical fruit purchases in 2015.
Exotic and Tropical Fruit Trade and Markets
In the specific case of tropical fruits sold into markets in the United States, more than 50% of this sector is dominated by imports from Mexico. For instance, Mexico sold US$1.1 billion worth of avocados to the United States in 2014, which then increased to US$1.5 billion by 2016. Likewise, Mexico exported US$246 million in guavas and mangoes, both fresh and dried, towards the United States in 2014, which then increased to US$360 million during 2016. Lastly, Mexico sold about US$123 million worth of fresh and dried bananas to the United States in 2014, amount that increased to US$133 million in 2016.
In the specific case of Colombia, the country has become South America’s leading exporter of exotic tropical fruits in recent years. On average, Colombia exports some US$50 million worth of exotic tropical fruits annually. The leading exotic fruits exported are gooseberry, representing close to US$20 million annually; gulupa, with approximately US$7 million; and processed guava products, such as jelly, representing more than US$5 million annually.
Another tropical and semi-tropical fruit category that represents a massive global market is citrus. During 2015, the international trade of citrus accounted for US$12.7 billion. Interestingly, both the largest importer and exporter of citrus products are the nations of the European continent. In 2015, European countries exported almost US$5 billion worth of citrus products (including intra-European trade), which accounted for 39% of the global citrus trade that year. Similarly, European nations purchased some US$8 billion worth of citrus imports that same year, which represented a staggering 63% of the overall citrus trade.