Mercados y Comercio

Tropical fruits

Value and growth of tropical fruits

Global production of tropical fruits has been growing steadily over the past decade, predominantly in response to growing demand in major producer areas. While tropical fruits play a small role in global agricultural trade in volume terms overall, accounting for a mere 3 percent of world agricultural food products exports, their high average export unit value of well above USD 1 000 per tonne places them as the third most valuable fruit group globally, behind bananas and apples. Trade in tropical fruits generates substantial income to smallholder producers, as well as significant export earnings for many of the producing countries, thereby contributing to their food security.

Commodity in focus

Global trade in tropical fruits has expanded to unprecedented heights in recent years, reaching an aggregate export volume of close to 8 million tonnes in 2019. Strong demand growth in key importing countries has supported ample investments in productivity improvements and area expansion in supplying countries, notably for avocados.

Takeaways:

An estimated 99 percent of tropical fruit production originates in developing countries, predominantly in Asia and Latin America, and a smaller share in Africa.

In most producing zones, tropical fruits continue to be cultivated at the subsistence rather than commercial level.

Regarding the four major tropical fruits, combined exports represent only some 5 percent of total production volume, with the remainder destined for domestic utilization.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to cause severe disruptions to global tropical fruit supply and smallholder livelihoods.

Did you know?

  • With around 2 700 species, tropical fruits are a source of nutrition, but also of income generation for those farmers involved in production for export.

  • In global commodity trade, tropical fruits constitute a comparatively new group, having emerged as significant in the international marketplace since 1970.

  • Export volumes of fresh tropical fruits have displayed the fastest average annual growth rates among internationally traded food commodities.

  • Advances in transportation, trade agreements and shifting consumer preferences in favour of these fruits have supported trade growth.

  • Given the highly perishable nature of tropical fruits in production and in distribution, environmental challenges are among the key obstacles to sustaining production and ensuring international markets are supplied.

  • Increasingly erratic weather events are a particularly acute challenge since the vast majority of tropical fruits are produced on smallholder farms of less than 5 ha, and where cultivation is highly dependent on rainfall.