Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

Section 1: Introduction

The last decade has witnessed a steady decline in the dollar values of many of the traditional agricultural export crops (TAEs) from developing countries and has highlighted the risks of depending upon a very narrow export base for foreign exchange earnings. Breaking the dependence upon the traditional primary commodities and diversifying into higher value or added value exports is not easy. This report provides an overview of the market for non-traditional agricultural exports or NTAEs. In particular, the report focuses upon the trends in international trade in these products, the trade and import policies of the major destination buyers, the extent of the "adding-up" problem[5] for selected NTAEs, the lessons learned, and the prospects for developing niche markets for organic and fair trade NTAEs.


We have identified four main product categories for study: fruits, vegetables, speciality produce and processed products.

The fruit category encompasses temperate fruits that can be grown in the southern hemisphere during the northern hemisphere "off-season", so-called counter-seasonal fruits. Grapes, pears and apples are the most widely traded of these counter-seasonal fruits. The category also covers a wide range of tropical fruits including pineapples, mangoes and papayas. The other tropical fruits category contains data on the minor, more exotic tropical fruits, such as passion fruit, lychees, guava, rambutan, durian etc., which are beginning to play a more important role in the international tropical fruit trade but are not yet separately specified within the statistics. Bananas and citrus are considered to be traditional exports for the purpose of this analysis. Trade data for these two crops are included within the "other fruit" category.

Historically, international trade in vegetables has been far less important than the equivalent trade in fruits, although vegetables now feature much more prominently in international trade than they did 10 years ago. The greater availability and lower cost of air freight, and the role of the supermarkets in opening up greater market opportunities for these products, have been important factors in this growth.

The vegetables which are separately specified for trade purposes include tomatoes, green beans, green peas, aubergines, asparagus, green corn, onions and cabbages. The "other vegetable" category, which includes around 50 percent of all vegetables traded includes a very diverse range of minor traded vegetables including the "Asian" vegetables, cucumbers, squash, spinach, mushrooms etc.

For both the speciality and the processed products categories, we have identified key products for analysis. Speciality products include cut flowers, medicinal herbs, chillies, garlic and ginger. Processed products include fruit juices (single strength and concentrated), tinned or prepared products (mushrooms, tomatoes and sweet corn), dried fruits, fruit (mango) pulp, tomato paste. It also includes prepared fruits and prepared vegetables; a category of trade which is growing in importance internationally.


The report is divided into six further sections. Section 2 uses the FAO statistical database, FAOSTAT, to provide detailed statistical data on trends in the export of NTAEs during the ten year period 1992 to 2001, both in volume and value terms. In particular, it analyses the contribution of developing countries and LDCs to trade in NTAEs and identifies the leading developing country exporters. It also provides data on the trend in the dollar (unit) values of the individual NTAEs during the ten year period. Using Brazil as an example, it also compares the trend in the volume and value of Brazil's exports of selected TAEs and NTAEs.

Section 3 examines the trade and import policies of the key destination countries for NTAEs: the European Union, the United States and Japan. It analyses tariffs and other import measures, including the complex area of phytosanitary controls. It also includes sections on tariff liberalization, tariff escalation and the extent of tariff preferences for developing country exporters of NTAEs.

Section 4 explores whether "adding up" is a potential problem in NTAE markets, as it has proved to be increasingly in the case of the TAEs. The section explores the degree to which an increase in exports may lead to a proportionately lower increase, or even to a decline, in export revenues for selected fruits and vegetables among key countries and regions.

Section 5 contains a detailed review of the current literature on NTAEs, with a particular focus on key issues for developing countries in the export horticulture sector. The main topics explored include developments in the supply chain; the opportunities for adding value at origin; "entry" issues, particularly with regard to grades and standards, the participation by small-scale producers and exporters; cost competitiveness; and macro-economic factors.

Other market opportunities for NTAEs are explored in Section 6, which focuses on developments in the markets for fair trade and organic produce. It highlights the current issues in both these markets, including over-supply and the risks associated with conversion to organic agriculture.

Section 7 presents brief conclusions and highlights key issues for developing countries in the production and marketing of NTAEs.

[5] Akiyama and Larson (1994).

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page