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Steady rise in fruit & veg imports in Nordic markets

Nordic countries import €1.74 billion in vegetables and €2.77 billion in fruit

Over the last 3 years, volumes have increased by 8% for vegetables and 5% for fruit.

Sweden and Norway are the top importers for both the fruit and vegetable categories.

Norway – €1.45 billion import market

In 2015, Norway imported 446,212 tons of vegetables with a value of €548.8 million and 543,311 tons of fresh fruit worth €904.7 million.

Norway is Scandinavia’s second biggest importer after Sweden and the steady growth in its fresh produce imports reached a peak last year. The most valuable fresh vegetable imports into Norway are tomatoes, worth €107.7 million, followed by cauliflower and cabbages at €54.8 million.

Most fresh vegetables in Norway come from Spain. In fruit, Norway is a big importer of citrus (129,628 tons) and apples and pears (111,038 tons). In 2015, 60% of Norway’s apples came from Italy.

In contrast to Sweden, supplied by the Netherlands, Norway imports more from Spain, with a total value of €92.9 million in 2014 and €116.9 million for fresh fruits. Dutch imports reached €74.94 million.

The number one partner in Scandinavia is Denmark, with €9.7 million of fresh produce traded.

Sweden – the leading Nordic fresh produce market

In 2015, Sweden imported 768,832 tons of fruit for a total value of €1.03 billion and 522,103 tons of fresh vegetables for a total value of €627.37 million.

Imports from European countries increased by 13.5% for vegetables and 18% for fruits on average. In 2015, Germany was the main supplier (€236.62 million), followed by Spain (€163.58 million).

The most popular imported vegetables in Sweden are tomatoes, with 89,135 tons, and potatoes, with 52,846 tons. Carrot volumes saw the most important rise (24%).

In the fruit category, citrus (144,751 tons), and apples and pears (112,439 tons) were the most traded with Sweden. Both represent almost 50% of the total volume of fruit imports. In 2015, the import trend is more focused on melons (+13%), bananas (+12%), apples and pears (+11%) and berries (+10%), while grapes decreased by 17%.

Denmark – sourcing more in the EU

In 2015, Denmark imported 440,498 tons of fruit for a total value of €657.8 million and 384,697 tons of fresh vegetables for a total value of nearly €357.6 million. Imports from European countries increased by 10% in volume, in contrast to imports from outside the EU, which dropped by 33%.

The most popular imported vegetables in Denmark are potatoes (€1.2 million in 2015), accounting for a third of the country’s total vegetable imports.

Denmark has supplied more tomatoes (+8%), cabbages (+8%), lettuce (+4%) and carrots (+13%).

Citrus is the top fruit import and import volumes have remained stable over the last 3 years (82, 529 tons in 2015). While banana import volumes fell by 9%, exotics and melons rose by 15% and 22% respectively from 2013 to 2015. 

Finland – addicted to fruit

Finnish imports of fresh produce are the lowest among Scandinavian countries. In 2015, Finland imported 339,060 tons of fruit for a total value of €432.5 million and 180,092 tons of vegetables for a total value of €241.16 million.

Some 96% of fresh produce imports come from European countries, although Finland is increasingly sourcing further afield for its exotics and bananas. In 2015, import values reached roughly €27.9 million from Germany, €72 million from Spain and €90.5 million from the Netherlands.

In 2015, Sweden was the top supplier for Finland (€17.3 million). Vegetable imports have fallen 4.5% over the last 3 years, while Finland has been sourcing more and more fruit, especially exotics: banana (+189%), dates, figs (+177%) and coconut (+21%).

In vegetables, potato imports have suffered considerably, with a fall of 46%, while onions and carrots dropped by 11% and 3% respectively.


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European supremacy in cucumbers

EU demand for cucumbers reached 1.27 million tons of import, for a total value of €1.1 billion and a 7% increase.

Extra-EU imports represent only 4% of total European imports. Indeed, EU cucumbers have a clear supremacy on their domestic market, and their import volumes have still increased +7% in value and +8% in volume. The biggest European importer is Germany (516,682 tons). It received 41% of European imports in 2015. The UK reached a total import volume of 139,465 tons, followed by the Netherlands (98,145 tons), Belgium (85,774 tons) and France (74,201 tons).

7% higher market value

In 2015, the main suppliers for cucumbers in Europe were all European. Spain (€471.71 million) and the Netherlands (€393.67 million) combined were worth more than half of the total value of cucumber imports in Europe. Belgium (€47.96 million), Germany (€60.60 million) and Greece (€18.8 million) are among the top-5 suppliers in Europe.



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Melons: a lucrative staple of EU fruit trade

Total melon imports within the European Union, including watermelon and papayas, last year reached a value of €1 billion and a volume of 1.7 million tons

Total melon imports within the European Union, including watermelon and papayas, last year reached a value of €1 billion and a volume of 1.7 million tons

The value of watermelon imports in the EU last year – €485.78 million – was almost equal to the €489.93 million total for imports of all other melon types combined. But the 1.09 million ton volume of watermelons imported was almost double that of the 599,339 tons total for all other other melons, revealing a considerable difference in value. While overall the melon trade remains mostly within the EU, for watermelons it is more mixed, with imports and exports to non-EU countries as well. In 2015, the perfect combination of weather, supply and consumption occurred in June and July, keeping prices and sales volumes high.

The market is becoming more EU-focused

Compared to 2014, European melon production and imports were lower in 2015, which allowed for a quite stable market and a slight rise in prices. Companies have released many innovations in the melon category, such as seedless or mini-varieties, packaging and in ready-to-eat products. Such innovations are important for the European market. The most important drivers for melons consumption are taste and convenience. According to a CBI (Confederation of British Industry) report, the EU imported 1.2 million tons of watermelons and 1 million tons of other melon varieties in 2014.

Developing countries the top suppliers

Within the EU, Spain is by far the largest melon exporter (especially watermelon), followed by Greece and Italy. France and Italy specialise in other melon varieties. However, every year extra-EU supplies from developing countries are increasing, especially from Costa Rica, Morocco, Brazil, Panama and Turkey. While most of the EU’s melons are sourced and sold within the EU, those from non-EU countries traded at higher prices in 2015. This is illustrated by the fact that imports from outside the EU represented 37% of the volume of melon sales in the EU yet a higher 49% of the value.

The EU’s main melon importers are Germany, France and the UK, which together account for 75% of total EU melon imports. Germany imported 475,251 tons of melons for a total value of €299.3 million, France imported a total volume of 257,697 tons for a value €164.6 million and the UK 136,480 tons for €82.8 million. About 70% of the EU’s melon trade takes place in summer. For instance, of the 482,264 tons of melons imported into the EU last year, 30% took place in July.

An extended peak season

Intra-EU imports of melons reached 599,339 tons in 2015 for a total value of €489.94 million. The main melon importers within the EU are Germany and France, for respective values of €106.8 million and €102.47 million. Extra-EU imports totalled 330,060 tons. The vast bulk of trade in melons take place over 3-4 months, with the peak period starting in late May and the last big volume of imports in September.


Intra-EU imports of watermelon reached 1.09 million tons in 2015. The biggest watermelon importer inside the EU is Germany, which represents almost 50% of total intra-EU imports (€178.2 million).

July is the peak season by far for the watermelon trade (over 350,000 tons for intra-EU ). Extra-EU imports totalled 260,001 tons (47% of intra-EU imports).


Watermelon image thanks to stux via Pixabay (CC0 Public Domain)

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Fruit and vegetable sources for the UK & Ireland

The UK is a big consumer of banana and other exotic fruits, such as pineapples, mangoes, papayas and avocados.

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.