In Germany, the production of fresh vegetables accounted for an estimated 5.5% of the agricultural production value in 2020. This value, which is low in comparison with the EU, already provides an indication of the high demand for vegetables from other member states and third countries, which accounts for more than 60% of German market demand. The degree of self-sufficiency varies, depending on the type of vegetable and its suitability for cultivation under local climatic conditions, from close to zero for exotics such as sweet potatoes to more than 100% for some types of cabbage.
In 2020, nearly 5,900 farms produced vegetables outdoors on just over 125,000 hectares. The largest outdoor vegetable production areas in 2020 were in North Rhine-Westphalia with 25,000 hectares, Lower Saxony with 21,500 hectares and Rhineland-Palatinate with 18,500 hectares. With a total of 3.9 million tons of vegetables (including harvest under high protective cover), the total harvest volume was at the previous year's level and just under 6% above the average for the years 2014 to 2019. A total of 379,600 tons, or almost 10% of the total annual volume, came from organic cultivation. Asparagus, carrots and onions are the most important crops in German vegetable production in terms of cultivation area. They grew on about 41% of the cultivated area in 2020.
In 2021, the asparagus season was again affected by the Corona pandemic. As in the previous year, there was a shortage of experienced harvest workers in some cases. At the same time, restaurants and large-scale catering establishments asked for less asparagus. Regionally, the asparagus season was also characterized by cool and wet weather. This led to crop failures and increased pest pressure and had a negative impact on yields. Yield increases were only recorded in Brandenburg, where yields had been particularly low in the previous year, partly as a result of several years of drought.
Due to the cool weather in April and May and a lack of sunshine hours, the start of the open-field vegetable season was noticeably delayed overall in Germany. At the end of May, there was a development delay of two to four weeks compared to an average year, depending on the crop. The supply situation, which had been tight up to that point, temporarily changed at the beginning of June, as crop sets that had been scheduled together became ready for harvesting at the same time. However, as the month progressed and into August, the unstable weather typical of this summer caused damage and failures in some regions due to thunderstorms, hail and heavy rain, so that supply pressure eased again. Losses were also higher due to quality problems. In addition, it was not possible to plant subsequent sets on the flooded or wet areas, which will have consequences for the development of supply in the coming weeks and months.
In contrast, demand for fresh vegetables from private households developed very positively, with particular interest in produce from regional cultivation. Over 2020 as a whole, the volume of fresh vegetables purchased was 14% higher than in 2019, and the trend continued until March 2021. After that, there was a decrease compared to the same month last year, but this was due to the hoarding at the beginning of the Corona season. For the period January through June 2021, there was a year-over-year increase of just under 2.5%, and a 17% increase compared to the pre-Corona year of 2019.