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Poland, a large producer, exporter and importer of fruit and vegetables

Poland, a large producer, exporter and importer of fruit and vegetables
Jorunalist & photos by: Natalia Bammatova, correspondent at Eurofresh Distribution

Parity of horticultural import and export value

Poland is a large fruit and vegetables producer. Its export exceeded 3.5 million tons valued 2.34 billion euro in 2019. Notwithstanding large production, the country imports fruit and vegetables at the same large scale: 2.73 million tons (2.6 billion euro) imported last year.

Fruit production in Poland, EU champion for apples and wild blueberries

Fruit export totalled 1.6 million tons valued 1.12 billion euro. Apples account for 79 per cent of total Polish fruit production, and the country ranks as the largest apple producer in EU. It also produces widely sour cherries and blueberries, but in 2020, the export of the latter may be challenged due to smaller production and higher prices. The country exported more than one million tons of apples and pears in 2019 comparing to 871,000 tons in 2015. Banana is the 2nd largest fruit exported in terms of volume (66,000 tons) which is paradoxical, and berries and stone fruit are the 3rd and the 4th (58,000 and 41,500 tons respectively). Tropical fruit (pineapple, avocado, mango, etc.) goes just behind them, which shows Poland as a re-exporter. Export of frozen fruit equalled 358,000 tons. Main destinations of Polish fruit are Germany (230 million euro of export), Belarus (110 million), the Netherland (72 million), UK (69 million) and Ukraine (52 million euro).

The notorious mushroom exporter

Among vegetables, carrots and cabbage are most widely cultivated in Poland; the country is also notable for wild Chanterelle mushrooms. In 2015, Poland exported 1.71 million tons of fresh and frozen vegetables valued 890 million euro, and increased its export up to 1.9 million tons valued 1.22 billion euro in 2019. Mushrooms is the top category of export (more than 238,000 tons in 2019); most are exported to Western Europe, including speciality items like oyster mushrooms and shiitake. Onion (143,000 tons), cabbage (75,000 t) and tomato (72,550 tons) go behind. The export of frozen vegetables totalled 446,000 tons at the value 315 million euro in 2019.

The prevalent markets for Polish vegetables are Germany (267 million euro), UK (182 million) and France (105 million). The same countries demonstrate the largest growth of import with +50% for Germany and 30% for France and UK since 2015. At the same time, other trade partners show positive results too, even remote ones such as the USA or Canada.

Steady progress of import figures

Despite well developed vegetable production, their import has almost doubled recently and exceeded 1.26 million tons valued 1 billion euro in 2019 (721 million tons valued 606 million euro in 2015). Poland sources vegetables basically from Spain (298 million euro), the Netherland (187 million), Germany (160 million) and Italy (75 million euro). Top imported categories are potato (274,000 tons), onion and garlic (237,000 t), tomatoes (159,000 t) and capsicum (78,000 tons).

In 2019, Polish import of fruit surpassed 1.47 million tons (1.6 billion euro). Spain (230 million euro), Germany (190 million), Italy (107 million) and Ecuador (99,500 million euro) remain the biggest suppliers. Bananas (458,000 tons), stone fruit (150,000) and grapes (353,000) are the leaders of fruit import. It is remarkable that citrus fruit is the unique category with a striking negative result (212,000 tons against average 400,000 tons within last 5 years). The import of fresh berries, kiwi and tropical fruit is large too (87,000 and 69,000 tons respectively).

Channels of sales: open markets, small stores and supermarkets

Local markets are favourite places for the purchasing fruit and vegetables, especially domestic products, but retail sector gradually gain larger share. The evaluation became most obvious with the beginning of the pandemic. The largest grocery retail brands are Biedronka (owned by Jeronimo Martins, Portugal), Zabka (Poland), Lidl (Germany), Auchan (France), Tesco (UK) and Stokrotka (Poland). Along with national and international retailers, some small stores are successfully developing their business. However, the impact of the measures connecting with Covid pandemic may change the portrait of the retail business.


About the Republic of Poland

  • Population 38.5 million
  • Surface: 312,600 km2
  • GDP: 35,651 USD
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France: a prominent exporter

Exports play a decisive role for the French fruit sector, accounting for 46% of production.

Exports play a decisive role for the French fruit sector, accounting for 46% of production.

For some products, this share reaches almost 50%, as is the case for apples and kiwis. The main partners are the EU member countries, especially the neighbouring countries including the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain. Switzerland is the largest fruit export destination, taking a 40% share of French exports outside the EU (with 100,453 tons), followed by Algeria and countries in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the latter country’s exports rising 32,000 tons, up 39%. Exports to Algeria came down 15% to 59,000 tons as the country is investing more in local crops, though Africa is the second continent for French exports due to increased demand in Egypt and Senegal.

Russia is no longer an unavoidable actor due to the embargo declared in August 2014, while exports to Latin American countries are falling because of the various economic crises in Venezuela and Argentina. Apples account for 73% of all exports, followed by peaches, nectarines and apricots. Demand for French high quality is rising in overseas markets.

French imports

In 2015, the top imported fruit into France was still bananas. More than 80% of banana exports from West African countries like Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Ghana enter French ports first. Banana exporting countries like Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Dominican Rep. and Surinam (59,000 tons, down 26%) also ship big banana volumes to Dunkirk and Le Havre. Morocco is sending more of its oranges and clementines, up 24%. Importers in Rungis/Paris buy their offseason produce directly in South Africa (112,000 tons), Chile (43,000 tons) and Peru (42,000 tons). The Tunisian market for ‘Maltese’ oranges is stable at 37,000 tons. Argentina’s export difficulties are also seen in the data, down 28% to 23,000 tons. The top imported vegetables are tomatoes, mainly from Morocco. Imports from this country are stable. Several off-season vegetables are imported from several countries in Africa and Israel.

Retail in detail: 60% market share

In 2015, retail represented about 60% of total fresh produce sales in France. Carrefour and Auchan, the two market leaders, further increased their market share to 27.2% and 17.4% respectively. Leclerc followed with a more difficult year, but had a good performance with its fresh produce department. It is known that the discounter Lidl now has a 2.5% share, though for Aldi the data are only an estimation.

Increased spending

Last year (2015) was marked by a sharp rise in spending by households on their fresh fruit and vegetable purchases, up 5% from 2014 and well above the 5-year average (+7.8%). This progression is all attributable to the rise in average purchase prices (+5.5%). Indeed, the quantities bought are stable (-0.5%) at the level of their five-year average. The frequency of purchase thus remains at the highest level (66 purchasing actions), accompanied only by a very small decrease in quantities purchased per action (-0.5%).

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Country profile: Germany


In 2014, the total German food market was worth 186.6 billion euros, but it sees fierce competition because about three quarters of the food market is dominated by the 5 largest retailers, the association of the German food industry (BVE) reports. The total food market amounted to a value of 186.6 billion euros in 2014. Food is largely sold through the retail channel and Edeka, the Schwarz group (Lidl, Kaufland), Rewe, Aldi and the Metro Group, held a 25.2 %, 14.8 %, 14.8 % 12.1 % and 5.8 % percent share of the food sales respectively in 2014. The price level of food has gone up a little. BVE reports that in November 2015 on average prices for food were up 0.2 % compared to October 2015 and rose 1.8 % compared to November 2014. Organic fresh produce is a long-time favourite of the German people and the popularity of organics is still rising, reports AMI (German agricultural information company). They indicate that in both consumption and production, the Germans are frontrunners where it comes to organic products. However, demand is rising stronger than production can keep up with, creating a need for more organic imports.


With a volume of 8.1 million tons, Germany is the second largest market—after the US with 16.7 million tons—for fresh fruit and vegetables. Russia tumbled from second to third place due to decreasing imports following the ban, reports Fruit&VegetableFacts. Germany’s annual production of open field vegetables amounts to 3.5 million tons and that is quite substantial. As for sheltered vegetables, the German production of 150,000 tons is relatively modest. German production of fresh produce can still only meet a portion of domestic demand and many imports are needed to satisfy the fresh produce market. Total fresh produce imports amounted to 8.1 million tons in 2014, a drop of 4.3 % compared to 2013; the total value in 2014 reached 8.9 billion euros. Fruit imports fell more sharply (by 5.3 %) than vegetable imports (-2.7 %). Although there are annual variations in the imported volume of fresh produce, the overall volume is more or less stable above 8 million tons.  The top 5 imported products together form 44 % of the import volume: bananas (17 %), tomatoes (9 %), apples (7 %), cucumbers (6 %) and oranges (5 %). The lion share of fresh produce imports are sourced from other European Union member states with Spain (30 %), the Netherlands (17 %) and Italy (12 %) as the most important EU importing partners for Germany. However, trade partners from outside the EU have a place in the top 5 foreign supplies: Ecuador and Costa Rica supply 7 % and 5 % respectively of Germany’s imported volume.


Although known as a major importer of fresh fruit and vegetables, German fresh produce exports still have a volume of over a million tons. Since 2010, the fresh produce market has seen a gradual decrease in exported volume. Whereas in 2010 there were 1.3 million tons still exported, that fell by 15.4% to 1.1 million tons in 2014. The top 5 (re-) exported products are: bananas, onions, apples, cabbages and cucumbers. In 2014, the latter product managed to gain 8 % in volume compared to 2013. Cauliflower seems to be slowly but steadily expanding its exported volume, too. In 2011, there were 17,000 tons exported, but 20,000 tons in 2014. Most of the exported fresh German produce is sold to EU member countries, 95.7 %, with neighbouring countries the Netherlands, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland and Denmark as the largest importers.


Production year 2014 was a good one for German farmers in terms of volume. Total production of open field vegetables rose by 9.2 % to a total of 3.5 million tons.

Carrots (609,000 tons), onions (500,000 tons), white cabbage (478,000 tons), different types of lettuce (298,000 tons) and pickles (198,000 tons) are the most important crops produced. In 2014, with a total of 609,000 tons, the carrot harvest surpassed 600,000 tons for the first time. The special love affair the Germans have with asparagus is becoming even stronger, with production steadily increasing. Whereas in 2010 there were 92,000 tons of asparagus produced, that rose by 23.9 % to 114,000 tons in 2014. That was also the first year that professional asparagus production was implemented on more than 20,000 hectares. And the prospects are good. In 2014 there were still more than 5,000 hectares not yet in production. In covered production, the tomato sets the pace with total production of 69,258 tons in 2013. Cucumber production is also considerable with 50,468 tons. The third largest covered crop is pepper. With production of 7,515 tons in 2013, it is considerably smaller but shows remarkable growth of 43 % compared with 2012.

Overall, German fruit production in 2014 saw growth. The volume of apples increased by 27 % to 1 million tons compared to 2013. At the same time, the apple acreage fell slightly by about 1 %. Another remarkable result comes from sweet cherries. In 2014, there were 60 % more produced than in 2013, on about 0.3 % less acreage.


  • Population (hab.): 81 million (Jul 2015 est.)
  • Total area (km2): 357,022 sq km
  • GDP: $3,748 (2014 est.)
  • Trade balance: $304 billion (2014 est.)
  • Inflation rate – consumer prices (%): 0.8% (2014 est.)
  • Growth rate (GDP real growth rate %): 1.6% (2014 est.)

Source: CIA World Factbook

Flag map of Germany [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Small, well developed Swiss fresh produce market offers growth opportunities


Being located in the centre of Europe, Switzerland holds a unique position among its neighbouring countries as a non-EU member country. In comparison with Europe, Switzerland has a small fruit and vegetable market. However, it is well developed and stands out for its high quality of supplies due to the high standard of living. Although it may be small, prospects are good for the Swiss fresh produce market. Due mainly to increased health awareness, total consumption of fruit and vegetables there continues to grow. About half of all fruit and vegetables consumed are imported.

According to Swisscofel, the Swiss association of fruit, vegetable and potato traders, growth opportunities are especially good for high quality products that are produced in a nature-friendly way, as well as convenience products. For individual products, the market can offer opportunities specifically if the fruit or vegetables are offered before or after the Swiss production season. Today, about 24 % of Switzerland’s inhabitants are from abroad, mainly from Asia and the Mediterranean area, and the fresh produce available has developed correspondingly. According to Swisscofel it has had a very positive impact on the demand for fruit and vegetables as a whole. Much as in the rest of Europe, the Swiss commercial structures are in motion. The market is largely defined by the retailers Migros and Coop, though the market offers a place to other retailers such as Denner, Magro, Spar, Volg and Prodega, too. The German discounters Aldi and Lidl are also expanding on the Swiss market. Because of the strong market presence of Migros and Coop, Swisscofel signals an increasing need for wholesalers to align their services with the needs of these retailers when it comes to issues like price, marketing or positioning.


Although the total population is only growing slightly and the average age of the Swiss population is increasing—meaning that on average a little less food is consumed—the total fruit and vegetable consumption per capita is at a very high level and still rising. The national ‘5 a day’ campaign promotes consumption of 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Apparently it is working and consumers are increasingly aware of the benefits of a healthy diet. Where in 1980 the per capita consumption of fresh vegetables was less than 60 kg, this has risen to just under 80 kg in 2014. Fresh fruit consumption has increased, too. Swisscofel signals that over the past 30 years, the consumption habits of the Swiss have changed and retail has responded to that by offering an increasingly wide range of fresh produce. It is also noted that the demand for products from fair programmes and organic production is growing. Swisscofel reports that interest in mini vegetables is growing and that they are a successful niche product. The average household in Switzerland consists of 2.6 people, which gives rise to the need for convenience products and small packages.


The Swiss have brought their economic practices largely into line with the EU’s to enhance their international competitiveness, but some trade protectionism remains, particularly for its small agricultural sector. For most fruit and vegetables that are domestically grown, imports are limited and a system of preferred tariffs is applicable. Depending on the market opportunities and domestic supply, quota are released on a weekly basis. These measures mean that during the harvest season the sales of domestic produce do not see excessive competition.

About half of Switzerland’s needs for fresh fruit and vegetables are met domestically and the other half is imported. This amounted to an imported volume of 819,148 tons in 2014 with a corresponding value of 17 million euros. Depending on domestic production facilities, the imported volume of individual products differs. Swisscofel reports that in 2014 about 9 % of the carrots, 37 % of the tomatoes and about 8.5 % of the pomaceaous fruits were imported in 2014. 

Vegetables and fruit are mainly imported from neighbouring countries and southern Europe. Around 62 % of the fruit imports and 86 % of the vegetable imports are from Europe, but exporters from non-European countries have also become important trade partners for Switzerland. For instance, Morocco supplied over 20 % of the imported tomatoes in 2014.  

Over the past 4 years, the total import volume of fruit went up by 3.5 % to a total of 511,758 tons in 2014. The of in imported fruit from Europe went down from 69.2 % in 2010 to 62.3 % in 2014, whereas the share of imports from Central and South America rose to 10.4 % and 15.2 % respectively in the same year. The imported volume of vegetables has risen over the years too; from 279,686 tons in 2010 to 307,390 tons in 2014; an increase of 9.8 %. Although by far the most important supplier, the share for Europe is declining in vegetables, too, to 86 % in 2014. North Africa and Asia complete the top 3 with shares in imported vegetables of 5.7 % and 4.8 % respectively in 2014.

Population: 8.1 million *
GDP: 473.3 **
Growth rate: 1.9 **
Inflation rate: 0% **
Total area: 41,277 square km 
Source: CIA World fact book
*estimation 2015.
**estimation 2014



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Country Profile: Portugal

Screenshot 2015-04-16 at 17

The Portuguese fresh produce sector (including plants and flowers) accounts for 33% o Portuguese agricultural production and 61% of plant production and is worth around €2.23 billion (INE, 2013). The most dynamic subsectors are those of the Rocha pear, citrus, kiwi and fresh tomatoes.

The Rocha pear is exported worldwide and is the flagship of the Portuguese fresh produce sector with more than 70% of all Portuguese pears being exported. Farmers have been investing in new orchards in recent years, hoping to boost production from 210,000 tons (in 2014) to 350,000 tons (in 2020).

Another fruit which is doing very well in Portugal is the kiwi which has doubled production over the last decade and is estimated to increase to 40,000 in the next five years due to the number of new orchards planted in recent years and the increase in yield. Citrus accounts for the largest percentage of fruit production in Portugal (236,800 tons in 2013) and, in the last decade, exports (oranges) have grown from zero to 100,737 tons (2012, worth €54.3M), half of the country’s production.


Exports of fruit, vegetables and flowers account for 21% of agrifood exports from Portugal and have more than tripled since 2000 (€299M) to 2014 (€996M, January to November). The value of fresh fruit exports increased by €306M between 2000 and 2014, accounting for €439M last year. The value of fresh vegetable exports is lower and grew at a slower rate, from 2000 to 2014, it rose €145M, totalling €214M last year.

Spain is by far the biggest importer of Portuguese fresh produce (€213M, in 2014), followed at a distance by France (€88M), The Netherlands (€74M) and the UK (€51M). Belgium, Poland, Brazil, Angola, Italy, Germany and Czech Republic are also in the top 10. Last February, Portugal was in the spotlight of the fresh produce world as the official partner country at Fruit Logistica, in Berlin. Several dozen Portuguese companies exhibited their products hoping to attract new clients.

Portugal relies on the flavour, aroma and colour of its fruit and vegetables and its capacity to produce early crops in the open air (some available all year), thanks to a mild climate, and, most of all, the country has a good image abroad, one still very much linked to nature and environmentally friendly production methods. Portugal Fresh, the association responsible for promoting the fresh produce sector, has set a goal for Portugal to reach exports of €2 billion by 2020.

Meanwhile, Portugal is working to overcome phytosanitary barriers and increase its number of export certifications. Negotiations are in place with 15 different countries: Brazil (table grapes, citrus and nectarines), China and Costa Rica (table grapes, pears, apples, citrus and kiwi), South Africa (strawberries, pears and apples), Japan (cherries), Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Panam, USA, India, Indonesia and Taiwan (pears and apples), Colombia (pears, plums, peaches, oranges, kiwis and apples) and Canada (plums).

„ NS

This is part of an article which appeared on page 22 of edition 136 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read the full article and much more here.




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BORRAR 512px-Japan_flag_-_variant

Bananas, citrus and pineapples lead Japan’s fruit imports

Japan has always been very dependent on imports, especially for food and even more so for fresh produce. The total value of its fresh produce imports in 2012 was $2.5 billion, which included about 1.86 million tons of fruit and 862,082 tons of vegetables.


The leading imported fruits in Japan are bananas (59%), citrus (20%) and pineapples (9%). Most of the bananas are from the Philippines. Among citrus varieties, the leading import is the grapefruit, though Japanese people are increasingly preferring oranges. In 2013, 67% of imported citrus in Japan came from the US, 30% from Australia and 2.4% from South Africa, for a total volume of 30,745 tons.


The fastest growth in fresh produce imports in Japan is in avocados, which rose by 25% in 2012. Because it favours domestic produce, Japan imports only small amounts of products that it grows itself – such as stone fruit, apples and cherries.


Fruit imports in Japan, 2012 (tons)

Bananas 1,096,538, Pineapples 174,041, Grapefruit 151,413, Oranges 130,422, Kiwifruit 63,970, Avocados 58,555, Lemons & limes 55,895



Vegetables imports in Japan, 2012 (tons)

Onions 342,710, Pumpkin & squash  125,024, Cabbage 84,110, Carrots 82,051, Leeks 56,400



Due to its small land mass and high population density, Japan lacks an agricultural sector strong enough to export significant volumes. But of the fresh produce it does export, fruit is the leading type, especially apples, mandarins and pears. In 2012, it exported about 14,015 tons of fruit and just 956 tons of vegetables.

Japanese retailers undergoing concentration

Japan’s retail sector has been quite stable in the past few years, even if regional retailers, such as Universe and Hokkaido’s ARCS, have tended to merge to compete with national players such as AEON and Ito-Yokado, which both represent 40% of total Japanese retail. The top 5 national companies – AEON, Ito-Yokado, Uny, Daiei and Life Corp. – together woo 62% of food sales.

Nationwide retailers, including AEON and Ito-Yokado, generally source their foods through importers and wholesalers.


Consumption in Japan – elders are big spenders


Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs figures show nearly a quarter of household spending in Japan is on food. Japanese people value local products and in particular high quality and premium produce. The recent ecological disasters there have also increased awareness of environmental issues and safe production standards.

Japanese consumers can be split into two main groups: young active people and elders. In the last few years, a big range of healthy and ready-to-eat fresh produce has been developed to cater for each of these segments.

AEON is particularly targeting elders by opening its stores two hours earlier and with special deals attracting more of them onsite.

This is an abbreviated version of an article that appeared on page 26 of our latest issue, available online here. Each edition of Eurofresh Distribution magazine features a country profile providing insights into the opportunities and trends in different world markets.


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Outlook for fresh produce growth in US market


About a third of all fresh fruit and vegetables consumed in the US now imported


Changing demographics and new food and health trends are fueling forecasts of increased demand for fresh fruit and vegetables in the giant US market after several years of negligible growth.

Fresh fruit and of fresh vegetable consumption have each crept up just 1% a year for the last three years. Bananas, apples, oranges, grapes and strawberries remained the top five most consumed fruits in the US. And tropical fruit – including pineapples, papayas, mangoes and avocados – saw greater demand thanks to the country’s expanding ethnic populations and more advertising.

As for fresh vegetables, the growth – though equally flat – was helped by consumer interest in fresh-cut produce and conveniently packaged vegetables. Prepared salads and bagged salads, broccoli florets and baby carrots were key drivers.

Why is there optimism about better growth in coming years? In the case of fresh fruit, retailers, producers, and the US government are making consumption easier for consumers, focusing on marketing fruit as the snack industry does, and promoting healthy eating programs. Convenient packaging and value-added and fresh cut options are also tipped to drive up sales.

Similarly, increased consumer awareness of the importance of healthy eating and government programs to increase the availability of vegetables and promote their consumption are also projected to bolster demand of this produce.

Other important trends are the aging US population – with baby-boomers in particular expected to eat more vegetables for health benefits – and consumption of fresh produce is on the up in the foodservice sector thanks to restaurant initiatives designed to increase their use of vegetables and also due to consumer interest in ethnic cuisines in which vegetables feature more as ingredients. America’s increasing Hispanic population, for example, is linked to greater demand for peppers and onions.

Read our full report free online here on pages 40-41.



PMA report on US Produce & Retail

USDA, Economic Research Service
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