In the European Union (EU), 3.4 million hectares were devoted to fruit growing in 2017; ie 1.9% of the total agricultural area, according to the latest Eurostat data. Spain (40%), Italy (17%) and Poland (9%) have the largest fruit-growing area in the EU.
Poland is on top when it comes to apple production, accounting for one third of the fruit's acreage in the Union. Italy (11%) and Romania (10%) follow Poland in the ranking.
The cultivation of vegetables takes place on an area of 2.2 million hectares, which is 1.2% of the EU's arable land. Italy (with 17.8% of the total area), Spain (17.3%) and France (11%) are in the top spots. The area cultivated with vegetables in Romania accounts for 6.4% of the EU's total.
The tomato production is dominated by Italy (38.4%), followed by Spain (25%) and Romania (9%). This year, total tomato production in the EU will reach 16.8 million tons; an increase of 4% compared to 2018. This increase is largely due to the growth in the production of tomatoes for processing, which increased by 6%. This has been reflected in the trade of processed tomatoes, with EU exports expected to increase by 33% in 2019.
This year, a government program has been dedicated to supporting the production of tomatoes in Romania by granting de minimis aid, and the Ministry of Agriculture announced its plans to continue it next year.
Romania and Poland have a problem: spring frost
“Romania has 102,000 hectares of trees and shrubs registered with APIA, but a significant part of those plantations are in decline. They are old and yield low productions. There is a fairly high percentage of fruit used for processing, for the manufacture of juices and other processed products, which, in a way, explains the absence of fresh Romanian apples in the big stores,” said Aurel Tanase, president of the Inter-branch Organization for Agro-Food Products (OIPA) Fruit and Vegetables.
In the last 10 years, approximately 15,000 hectares have been planted with new orchards, so an increase in yields is expected. In any case, some of these plantations have yet to become fully productive, as it takes two to three years after cultivation before the production is in full swing.
"There has been a climate problem in recent years. When the trees bloomed, frost, or haze arrived. This year, the cherries and peaches have been particularly affected. In apples, Romania had a very high production last year, but a low price of 0.30 lei per kilo (0.06 Euro) and many fruits were left unused. This year, however, there have been production losses of 30% -40%, due to the frost. Nationwide, we have a production of 400,000 tons of apples that could cover the domestic consumption. But the areas of the orchards have been hit and the producers do not have the capacity to sell. And this is one reason why domestic production is unable to meet the market's consumption,” explains Aurel Tanase.
The spring frosts have not only caused problems in Romania, but also in Poland, where they have led to a considerable reduction in the apple production. At EU level, there has been a drop of about 18%; however, due to the high production from the previous year, EU exports of processed apples are expected to be at a high level this year (11% above average).