What U.S. fruit growers got out of the USDA trade mission to India

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What U.S. fruit growers got out of the USDA trade mission to India

A large delegation of United States trade representatives, led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, traveled to New Delhi, India this month to advance bilateral trade.  Fruit growers from across the country joined the trade mission, in hopes of further tapping into the Indian market

The trade delegation included government departments and businesses representing California, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Minnesota. The trip focused largely on the product categories, like cherries and almonds, that pose a long-term benefit for United States trade. 

Exports of U.S. agricultural goods to India were nearly $2 billion dollars last year, which made India the United States’ 13th largest export market. Top exports are dried fruits, ethanol for non fuel, and cotton. In 2023, India reduced tariffs on ten agricultural commodities, including almonds, walnuts, apples, blueberries, and cranberries.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that these tariff reductions could increase trade by approximately $345 million this year alone, according to Alexis M. Taylor, the USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs.

“India is a really important market,” Taylor said during a press call after the trip. “We think at the USDA that market diversification helps our agricultural community open doors to a diverse set of markets, and maximize their food and agricultural presence, and de-risk some of the global trading environment.” 

State perspectives from trade mission

California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary Karen Ross spoke about the state’s potential for growth in the dried fruit realm and emphasized the country’s young middle class population as new consumers. 

Under Secretary Taylor added that India also opened access to United States cherries, a market that California growers should be interested in since the state is the largest producer of the commodity after Washington. 

After India established phytosanitary standards for Pacific Northwest cherries, U.S. cherry exports to India surpassed $600,000 in 2021. The category holds the potential to reach $5 million in value annually. 

Cherries might also be an untapped market for Idaho, explained Nancy Waltz, Director for Idaho’s State Department of Agriculture. “And apples potentially, but berries are our biggest export as a state, and we’re excited about that.”

The state will also be opening the largest dairy research facility in the United States. 

“There may be an opportunity for environmental research, herd health research and a partnership,” Waltz added.

Trade deficit

Mississippi is also interested in the potential for berries and pecans, said Andy Gipson, Mississippi’s eighth Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce

“Our pecan growers in Mississippi will benefit from this growing trade in our unique pecan industry,” he said. “We're shipping Mississippi blueberries here to India right now. We've got one grower in particular that has some Indian connections who's shipping Mississippi blueberries here.”

When asked about the agricultural trade deficit and how the trade relationship with India might affect the gap, Commissioner Gipson said that India’s large population and growing middle class economy makes it a “tremendous trade partner for the United States for decades to come.” 

“I do feel like we’re here at the right time to get that momentum rolling and we have to keep it rolling as we look to the next five, ten, 15 years,” he said. “So, it’s a long term prospect, but it’s an exciting prospect, and I think everyone here around this table sees India is going to be a key partner for growth of trade for the future, near and long term.”

Strategic investment

Taylor added that she believes it’s important for U.S. farmers and ranchers to be investing in the Indian market. 

“Forty-five percent of Indians are 24-years-old or younger. That’s 630 million people,” she said. “That’s huge purchasing power, they have a growing middle class. By 2030, 66 million people in India will be middle class and upper middle class households.”

In 2022, India was the number 5 economy in the world in terms of GDP, number 15 in total exports and number 8 in total imports. In January 2024, the increase in India’s imports was driven mainly by an increase in trade from China, United Arab Emirates, and Russia. 

The Under Secretary said later this year, the USDA will be heading to Canada to do a tribal-focused trade mission, then Colombia, Vietnam, and Morocco.

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