While the UK sources most of its fruit from outside the European Union, it buys most of its vegetables from within the EU
UK fresh produce imports – of both vegetables and fruit – have increased 12% in value in the last three years.
Total fruits imports rose from €2.56 billion in 2013 to €3.26 billion in 2015. Intra-EU imports represent 40% of UK imports, while extra-EU imports represent 60%.
Spain is the top foreign fruit source for the UK, but its other import markets are mostly non-European countries. Last year, Spain supplied the UK with 679,523 tons of fresh fruits, followed by South Africa and Costa Rica with 346,359 and 303,221 tons respectively.
The UK is a big consumer of banana and other exotic fruits, such as pineapples, mangoes, papayas and avocados. In 2015, a total of 1.14 million tons of banana and 313,116 tons of exotic fruits were imported into the UK.
According to a recent survey by the UK government (see Food Pocketbook 2015), prices are 5.7% higher in the UK than elsewhere in Europe.
Spain and the Netherlands: top suppliers of the UK vegetables market
Concerning vegetables, imports are stronger with European partners. More than 80% of imported vegetables in the UK were provided by a European partner in 2015 (€2.98 billion for 2.73 million tons). Vegetable volumes dropped slightly – from 3.66 million tons in 2013 to 3.39 million tons in 2015 – but the values rose from €3.41 billion to €3.85 billion.
With a total of 1.01 million tons, Spain is the UK’s top supplier, followed by the Netherlands with 744,239 tons. Spain and the Netherlands together supplied 64% of the volume of the UK’s vegetable imports.
The bulk of imported vegetables came from Southern Europe, such as tomatoes (329,526 tons), onions and garlic (173,617 tons). Imports of potatoes and carrots fell to 136,984 tons (-74% over 2013-15) and 63,534 tons (-22%) respectively, but the UK imported more legumes (+55%).
Ireland: Europe the main source
Ireland’s fruit and vegetable imports have generally increased since 2013 both in volume and in value. Its vegetable imports reached 332,794 tons in 2015 (+5% on 2013) for a total value of €289.04 million, while fruit imports totalled 304,910 tons (+8% on 2013) for a value of €403.73 million.
Bananas are the top category for Irish imports (85,630 tons), followed by apples and pears (67,759 tons in 2015) and citrus (63,999 tons). In term of value, apples and pears were the most lucrative category with nearly €73.3 million.
The UK, the Netherlands (both major re-exporters) and Spain together supply more than 80% of Ireland’s vegetables imports but its fruit sources are more diversified. The UK is Ireland’s top source for fruit, last year supplying 49,913 tons, which represented 16% of Ireland’s total fruit imports. Neck and neck in second position were Costa Rica and the Netherlands with 39,345 and 39,192 tons respectively.