INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, September 25, 2003 -- CropChoice news -- Associated
Press: After more than 40 years of exporting
more meat, grains and produce than it imports, the United
States is on the brink of becoming a net agricultural
importer, two economists warn.
If current trends continue, Purdue University economists
Phil Paarlberg and Phil Abbott say agriculture imports
could overtake exports by 2007, driven by a sluggish
export market and consumers' growing appetite for foods
From mangos to baby back ribs, Americans are eating
more foods that are either not produced in America or
in amounts too small to meet demand, Paarlberg said.
He and Abbott said U.S. agriculture exports were projected
to grow by about $500 million in the coming fiscal year
to about $56.5 billion. Agriculture imports, meanwhile,
are expected to grow as much as $3.5 billion to about
$47.5 billion, during the same period, they said.
``We can see this gap narrowing. Where we were looking
at an agricultural trade surplus five or six years ago
of $15 billion to $20 billion, now it's under $10 billion,''
While the export-import gap shrank to about the same
point during the mid-1980s, he said the nation has not
been a net agricultural importer since 1958-59.
Paarlberg said imports have generally been growing
since the mid-1980s, driven in part because Americans
are consuming more crops the nation produces little
or none of, such as coffee, tea, cocoa and bananas.
At the same time, it is importing lower-quality meat
for several countries for hamburger-grade cuts, wheat
from Canada, even baby back ribs from Denmark -- all
products it also produces.
Christine Bruhn, director of the Center for Consumer
Research at the University of California at Davis, said
Americans were seeking out exotic produce in part because
more of them are traveling overseas.
``In the old days it was rare for Americans to even
have a passport, but now we have young people traveling
in high school or college to somewhere far away and
wonderful -- places that have their own types of unique
and delicious produce,'' Bruhn said. ``Americans enjoy
these and when they get home they want them.''
Bruhn said increased imports of exotic produce also
were being driven by the growing number of Hispanic
and Latin Americans who hunger for the fruits and vegetables
of their native lands.
Center for Consumer Research: http://ccr.ucdavis.edu