chapter  10
12 Pages

Assessing the International Competitiveness of the United States Food Sector

WithStephen MacDonald, John E. Lee

World trade in agricultural products totalled $312 billion in 1990. A comparison of the levels and composition of United States (US) agricultural exports versus imports lends insight into the types of products in which the US has the greatest and least comparative advantage or competitiveness. Trying to determine the competitiveness of an entire industry as complex as the US food sector is an ambitious undertaking. For semiprocessed products, US exports have consistently grown less rapidly than world exports, even though the US is a large exporter of these products. The US still lags overall world trade in terms of high-value and value-added content. For the food processing industry, 1985 estimates for labor productivity show that among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, only Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom increased their productivity more than the US in the first half of the 1980s.