After the US, Germany comes second as an importer of fresh fruit and vegetables. Last year, Germany imported 8.9 million tonnes with a value of 10.5 billion euro. A record amount, both in quantity and in value.
The Netherlands is Germany’s second largest supplier after Spain. The total flow of trade of fresh fruit and vegetables from the Netherlands to Germany has a size of more than 2.5 million tonnes. Of this, an estimated one million tonnes is product grown in the Netherlands. Bananas are the most important import product in Germany. For some years, 300,000 tonnes of bananas are imported by Germany via the Netherlands annually. Tomatoes are in second place. Last year, this concerned more than 700,000 tonnes, 440,000 tonnes of which arrived via the Netherlands. Of that, between 350,000 and 400,000 tonnes were of Dutch origin.
It’s noticeable that more and more vegetables have been grown in Germany in recent years. Last year, this was 4 million tonnes. Both the production of outdoor vegetables (3.8 million tonnes) and greenhouse vegetables (180,000 tonnes) experienced record sizes in 2017. The German fruit harvest was exceptionally small last year, because of extreme weather circumstances. However, more fresh fruit was imported last year than ever before.
Fruit harvest suffers from bad weather
The own German production of vegetables is larger than import, 4.0 and 3.2 million tonnes respectively. Germany exports fresh vegetables as well. Last year, they exported 385,000 tonnes, which was less than the year before. In 2013, the German vegetable export was the largest, 470,000 tonnes. With 90,000 tonnes, onions were the largest export product in 2017. Headed cabbage came second with nearly 60,000 tonnes. The Netherlands is the most important buyer, with roughly 70,000 tonnes last year. Neighbours Austria and the Czech Republic come second and third.
For fresh fruit, import is much larger than the own German production. Last year, import increased to a record of 5.64 million tonnes. The German fruit production was 850,000 tonnes in 2017, the smallest amount in recent years. This was mostly because the apple harvest suffered much from bad weather in spring. For years, Germany has exported between 700 and 800,000 tonnes of fresh fruit. About half of this concerns the re-export of bananas. Apple is their second product, but export of this product remains below the limit of 100,000 tonnes. Neighbouring countries the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Austria are the most important buyers.
More and more greenhouse vegetables as well
The production of vegetables has started increasing again in recent years. Various products were grown more in 2017 than previously. Last year, the production of outdoor vegetables increased to 3.82 million tonnes, compared to 3.56 million tonnes (+7%) in the previous year. It was even less in 2015, 3.29 million tonnes. Of various important products, last year’s harvest was the largest in ten years. Three large vegetables are dominant. Carrot is by far the most important German product, with a production of 734,000 tonnes last year. That was at least 14 per cent higher than in 2016. Of the two other large products, onions and white cabbage, the harvests of 541,000 and 479,000 tonnes respectively were the largest harvest of the past ten years as well. Gherkins, red cabbage, iceberg lettuce and asparagus are the numbers four to seven. Productions are between 130,000 and 190,000 tonnes. Of these four, only the asparagus production was larger than ever in 2017.
The production of greenhouse vegetables was larger than ever in the past year as well. It total, it was about 180,000 tonnes compared to 150,000 tonnes in 2016. Tomato is the most important product, and in 2017 this product had a production of just over 100,000 tonnes. With an import of 716,000 tonnes in 2017, this means roughly 12 per cent of domestic demand is taken care of by own, German product. It’s about the same for cucumbers, with a production of 60,000 tonnes and an import of 470,000 tonnes. For the third largest product, bell pepper, the share of domestic product is only 3 per cent, which is modest (production 12,000 tonnes, import 385,000 tonnes). Of the other greenhouse products, the German production has a very modest size.
One million tonnes of Dutch product to Germany
According to KCB/GFH, 851,000 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables from Dutch soil were exported to Germany last year. The three greenhouse vegetable products tomatoes (346,000 tonnes), cucumbers (180,000 tonnes) and bell pepper (100,000 tonnes) are by far the most important, and combined represent three-quarters of the total. According to the SBA, the German statistical office, 1.33 million tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables were imported from the Netherlands last year. In principle, this source assumes the country of origin is correct.
Assuming the KCB statistics don’t map the entire flow of trade, roughly one million tonnes of Dutch product will have been sent to Germany, in addition to 1.5 million tonnes of re-export product. This concerns, for example, bananas (300,000 tonnes), and re-export of grapes (135,000 tonnes), pineapples (115), tomatoes (90), avocados (70), mangoes (62) and cucumbers (50).
A third of vegetables imported from the Netherlands
Based on the figures of the German statistical office, the share of Dutch product in the total import of fresh fruit and vegetables is 15 per cent, fresh fruit is 3 per cent, and fresh vegetables are 36 per cent. Of the three important products, tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers, that’s 55 per cent, 45 per cent and 32 per cent, respectively. These are annual averages. Other Dutch products with a large share in total import are sprouts (91%), headed cabbage (48%) and celeriac (84%). Including own German production, 13 per cent of the domestic German vegetable market is product grown in the Netherlands. In fruit, the share of Dutch product is very modest.
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Jan Kees Boon
Fruit and Vegetable Facts