Hong Kong has grown to become the fourth-largest market overall for U.S. food and beverage exports, according to a report from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

During a time when other major import markets were shrinking, FAS expects U.S. exports of high value food products to Hong Kong to grow by 15 percent and top the $1.4 billion mark by the end of 2009, the largest growth among all U.S. export markets in the world.

The report projects continued growth in exports to Hong Kong, with top prospects including meat, fresh fruit, tree nuts, processed fruit, vegetables, wine, craft beer and cheeses. Wine and beer offer special opportunities as the Hong Kong Government eliminated their excise taxes in 2008.

Due to limited land resources and rapid urbanization, Hong Kong relies on imports for about 95 percent of its food supply. Local production contributes only 3 percent of fresh vegetables, 46 percent of live poultry, and 7 percent of live pigs.

Demand for U.S. products continues to grow, given the weakened U.S. dollar making U.S. food products more competitive. The report notes that U.S. food products are well-known for their high quality and reliability of food safety. Hong Kong consumers are increasingly more health and safety conscious due to food scares from neighboring countries. The report also notes that Hong Kong’s economy has remained relatively stable, and per-capita incomes are some of the highest in the world.

The full report is available online.