EU tomato consumption fell in 2017 from the 2016 level of 35.9kg per person to 34.2 kg per person, according to data published by the European Commission. While total sales in 2016 were 17.98 million tons, in 2017, they reached only 17.05 million tons. However, tomato imports from outside the EU grew between 2015 and 2017, from 480,760 tons to 568, 074 tons. Conversely, EU exports to outside the zone fell over the period, from 201,840 tons in 2015 to 131,703 tons in 2017.
Source: European Commission
The world’s tomato trade was worth US$9.16 billion in 2017, a 4.6% rise from 2016, but a drop of 0.9% from 2013. The EU imported $5.8 billion worth of the total (63.4%), followed by North America (28.5%), Asia (7.4%), Africa (0.3%), Latin America (0.3%) and Oceania (0.1%). In terms of countries, the US was far and away the world’s number-one importer of tomatoes in 2017, with volumes received totalling around US$2.5 billion – an increase of 2% on 2016. The next largest tomato importer was Germany, with imports remaining flat at US$1.48 billion. The fastest-growing markets since 2013 is Belarus (+229.1%), Spain (+120%), France (+17.7%) and Canada (+10.3%). Four countries recorded falls in imported tomato volumes: Russia (-49.4%), Belgium (-23.4%), the Netherlands (-10%) and Sweden (-1.7%).
The EU’s fruit production area measured almost 1.3 million hectares in 2017, according to Eurostat data. The largest area was in Spain (422,800ha, 33%), followed by Italy (279,300ha, 22%) and Poland (167,300ha, 13%). Apples accounted for just over one third of the area (473,500ha, 37%), followed by oranges (255,500ha, 20%). Next came peaches (190,500ha, 15%), clementines and satsumas (139,600ha, 11%), pears (100,400ha, 8%), apricots (75,700ha, 6%) and lemons (60,100ha, 5%).
The EU’s fruit production area rose by 0.4% between 2012 and 2017. The largest expansion in this period took place in Poland (+11%), Greece (+6%), Romania (+6%) and Portugal (+7%). The most significant declines were in Czechia (-29%) and Croatia (-24%), while Spain (-2%) and Italy (-2%) also saw shrinkage. Poland has the largest apple production area, while Italy leads the way in pears and Spain in oranges, small citrus, peaches, apricots and lemons.
The EU confirmed its position as the world’s largest importer and exporter of agro-food goods in 2017 by reaching new heights. Exports of €138 billion combined with imports worth €117 billion, to set a new record of €255 billion. Experts believe the competitiveness of the region’s producers is down to their reputation as being safe, sustainably produced, nutritious and of high quality. Trade agreements have recently been put into place with Canada, Japan and Mexico.
The world’s five largest agri-food exporters (the EU, the US, Brazil, China, Canada) all posted higher export values in 2017, with an average increase of 4.3%. Meanwhile, agri-food imports of the world’s top five importers (the EU, the US, China, Japan, Canada) recorded an average rise of 5.3%.
EU exports were up to all of its main partners. Even exports to Russia increased for the first time since 2013 thanks to products not subject to the embargo. In terms of its imports, the EU’s sources have diversified over recent years. The most imported products in terms of value were tropical fruits, with a further rise recorded in 2017.
Despite the positive results, the future of the sector’s trade is far from certain due to the prospect of trade barriers going up and the UK’s exit from the EU. Nevertheless, with global population continuing to increase and changing consumer trends, the EU’s operators are well positioned to benefit.
Trade in agricultural produce between the EU and the rest of the world hit €275 billion in 2017, according to Eurostat. Agricultural products are generally divided into three categories: vegetables (trees, plants, vegetables, fruit, coffee, cereals, seeds and oil), foodstuffs (various types of processed goods deriving from vegetable and animal products such as sugar, beverages, tobacco and prepared animal fodder) and animal products (live animals, meat, fish, crustaceans, dairy produce, eggs, honey).
Vegetables accounted for 22% of exports and 48% of EU imports of agricultural products. The largest market for EU agricultural exports in 2017 was the US, accounting for 16% of the total, followed by China (8%) and Switzerland (6%). The largest agricultural suppliers to the EU were Brazil and the US (8% each), followed by Norway and China (5% each).
The EU’s trade commission has published a report detailing the 5.1% rise in the community’s agri-food exports in 2017. The markets which recorded the highest growth were the US (+6%), Russia (+16%) and Asia, particularly Japan (+11%), China (+5%), Hong Kong (+10%) and South Korea (+13%). The best performing sectors were wine, pet food and spirits, while cereals and pig meat exports fell.
Meanwhile, EU agri-food imports also grew but not by as much as exports, leaving a positive agri-food products trade balance surplus of €20.5 billion.
Picture: EU agri-foods trade balance for 2017
The frost-blighted 2017 apple season across Europe meant that on April 1st 2018, total apple stocks stood at 1.2 million tons, according to WAPA data. The majority of these stocks were in Italy (327,000 tons), Poland (286,000 tons) and France (248,000 tons). This constituted a 43% drop from inventories on the same date in 2017. In terms of varieties, Golden Delicious was dominant (446,000 tons), followed by Granny Smith (83,000 tons), Idared 82,000 tons, Jonagold (55,000 tons), Fuji (54,000 tons), and Red Delicious (50,000 tons). Production volumes in the Southern Hemisphere were also down this year (-4%). Varieties have been renewed in New Zealand and South Africa to accommodate the tastes of the Asian market, with Braeburns being replaced by Fuji or Pink Lady. Trends in Europe are for two-colour apples in the north and single-colour apples in the south. Beyond Europe, China, too, was hit by two cold snaps at the beginning of April, with damage estimated at 15-30% of the harvest.
As for the 2018 season ahead, a warm April and first half of May has produced abundant flowering in most species and the prospects are good for the campaign. However, there is the likelihood of a shortfall in labour at harvest time, with fewer migrant workers arriving from Eastern Europe to pick fruit.
In 2017, following a record harvest in 2016, Poland’s overall fruit production plummeted by around 34.7% to 2.7 million tons. The dramatic drop in production was mainly due to frost damage and difficult conditions during the final harvesting phase. However, conditions differed greatly from orchard to orchard, even within the same fruit farm. According to GUS data, Poland’s total apple production was almost a third lower than during the previous year – 2.4 million tons. Nevertheless, where frost damage did not occur, there were instances of high yields and good fruit quality.
The scale of loss depended on the plantations’ varieties, age and location. The least affected varieties were Champion, Gala and Gloster, while the most affected variety was the Idared, which is the most produced apple in Poland. On some plantations, losses reached nearly 100%, but in general, there was just a lower amount of fruit on trees. In many cases, poor fruit quality was also recorded as the fruit was misshapen by the frosts and, in some places, by hail, diseases and pests. There were reports of physiological and fungal diseases.
As for other fruits, Poland’s pear production was similarly affected, with a 32.3% lower harvest than the previous year. Plum volumes were almost half the level of 2016, while cherry production was over 60% less than in the previous year. Apricots and peaches also suffered a heavy toll from the adverse weather conditions according to the Central Statistics Office.
According to Eurostat, imports to the EU of fruits and vegetables from third countries rose by 5% in 2017 to 15.5 million tons. About 13.3 million tons of the total imports were fruits (+6%) and 2.2 million tons were vegetables (+1%). The main imported products are banana (5.9 million tons, +7%), orange (1.1 million tons, +11%) and pineapple (941,000 tons, +11%). Other significant imports were apples (448,000 tons, +1%) and avocados (486,000 tons, +9%).
The main vegetable import to the EU is tomato (568,000 tons, +8%), with volumes growing steadily over the past five years. Morocco is the leading supplier of non-EU tomatoes, with volumes of 405,000 tons representing 71% of the total. Other key vegetable products imported to the EU are potato (430,000 tons, +14%), onion (243,000 tons, +8%), peppers (230,000 tons, -1%) and green beans (189,000 tons, -6%).
Overall, vegetable imports are highly concentrated in a small number of products while the range of imported fruit is much broader.
Belgians are consuming fewer fresh vegetables but slightly more fresh fruit. According to data from the market research agency GfK Belgium, the average Belgian purchased 38 kg of fresh vegetables in 2017 – 1kg less than in 2016. Average vegetable prices were higher, which meant that overall spending on vegetables remained stable. Fruit consumption climbed slightly, from 46.6 to 47 kg per capita. With fresh fruit prices being 4% higher last year, spending on fruit grew by 5%. Consumption of organic vegetables and fruit continued to increase – half of Belgians now buy biofruit. However, the growth has slowed down from previous years.
Belgian’s favourite vegetable remains the tomato, closely followed by the carrot. While apples are still the county’s favourite fruit (especially the Jonagold variety), consumption has fallen and bananas are making up ground on them. Strawberries too saw increased consumption in 2017.
In terms of distribution, the picture changed very little. Although DIS 1 remains the market leader, its share fell slightly, from 49% to 48%, followed by hard discount (24%), and neighborhood supermarkets, whose market share rose from 14% to 16%.