Imports relieve some pressure
The United States’ demand for certified organic ingredients has expanded well beyond North America. Year to date, total imports of organic corn, for example, have reached 2.8 million bus, which is an increase of 878% versus last year, said Mr. Jones of Mercaris. The leading countries were Romania, Turkey, The Netherlands and Canada. They accounted for 91.7% of total organic corn imports for the last 12 months.
Kellee James, chief executive officer of Mercaris, clarified that inclusion of The Netherlands on the list of leading exporters of organic grains to the United States does not reflect the level of production in the country.
“This has more to do with the way ships are tracked via last ports, rather than the origin of the grain,” he said.
Organic soybeans have seen a less dramatic increase, Mr. Jones said. Year-to-date, total imports of organic soybeans have reached 3.2 million bus, which is an increase of 160% versus last year. He said if the current pace continues throughout the year, total organic soybean imports could reach 25.2 million bus. India is by far the biggest supplier with 43.9% of total imports for the last 12 months.
“We foresee solid growth continuing on the demand side, which will help give supply the right incentives to continue to grow, sustainably,” Mr. Jones said. “As I mentioned, there are a mix of initiatives under way, some that give immediate support to organic production, and others that will take some time.”
Mr. Lewis of the O.T.A. said imports will remain a source of supply for many organic commodities for the foreseeable future.
“Imports are on everyone’s mind,” he said. “At this point, we are seeing imports from countries where their labor costs are cheaper. But some of these countries are also doing more research into organic crop production and looking at things like weed control. That is one reason they may have more supply.
“We want organic to be an opportunity for farmers in the U.S., but we also want to see the industry grow. We don’t see imports as an evil. The supply needs to come from somewhere.”