Leeks are a small but very stable product in the fruit and vegetable assortment. France is the largest producer in Europe, but Belgium and the Netherlands call the shots in international trade. Both countries export around 60 to 70,000 tons of leeks worth €70 to €80 million each season. France grows approximately 160,000 tons of leeks annually but only exports about 10,000 tons. That country imports more - about 20,000 tons - per season.
Belgian leek production fluctuated considerably recently, from 170,000 tons in 2021/22 to 140,000 last season. Just under half of that was, thus, exported. Belgium imports few leeks, and many find their way to that country's (frozen) industry. In the Netherlands, between 90,000 and 100,000 tons of leeks are grown per season.
Of that, more than half is destined for export. Roughly 10,000 tons are also imported. Spain, which cultivates between 60,000 and 80,000 tons of leeks, is increasingly exporting this product. Last season, that was nearly 30,000 tons, making that bigger than imports, which have hovered around 25,000 tons for a while.
Spanish product fills gap
The Dutch and Belgian export seasons are quite similar. For both, the peak is in the winter, from December to March. Spanish leeks are mainly on the market in May and June. In the 2022/23 season, Belgian exports fell sharply in June, somewhat smaller than those from the Netherlands. Before, Belgium was always the largest.
The Netherlands: Two-thirds for export
In the Netherlands, leek production has been relatively constant, at 80,000 to 100,000 tons, for the last 25 years or so. There is no up or down trend, though this product comes from an increasingly smaller acreage. Even more pronounced is the decrease in the number of leek growers.
The area of Dutch leeks has fallen from 3,200 ha at the turn of the century to the current 2,200 ha. The number of farms has declined from over 1,000 to just 260. On average, 350 tons of leeks are now cultivated per farm. The most leeks, by far, come from the North Brabant and Limburg areas.
In recent seasons, leeks imports in the Netherlands rose to more than 11,000 tons, mainly from Spain. The Netherlands exported just under 60,000 tons of leeks in the past season. That is slightly more than in the previous two seasons, but compared to before that, it was an average amount. Over a third of Dutch leek exports are directed to Germany. Far behind, Sweden, Belgium, Italy, Czech Republic, Spain, and the UK are other suppliers with reasonable export quantities.
Spain was Belgian's top buyer last season
More than half of Belgian leek exports are directed at Spain and France. Last season, exports to France fell sharply to 15,500 tons. By contrast, exports to Spain grew and, with 16,000 tons, that country was Belgium's primary customer. Germany, the Netherlands, and Poland are other major buyers. France imports the most from Belgium and exports the most to Spain. Spain, in turn, imports the most from Belgium and exports the most to Portugal.
Over a third of German imports come from the Netherlands
Germany also produces a fair amount - 90,000 tons - of leeks and imports a lot. Last season, that was 36,000 tons, much less than in the prior two seasons, when that country brought in just under 50,000 tons of leeks. The Netherlands is the leading supplier, though Germany gets significant imports from Belgium, Italy, Egypt, and Spain, too.
Outside the EU, only Turkey counts. It produced a significant amount of leeks, usually harvesting over 200,000 tons of leeks. In 2022, it was much less, and compared to 2021, exports also fell sharply to 5,000 tons, while 13,500 tons were exported in 2021. Before that, however, Turkey exported no more than 3,000 to 4,000 tons. Switzerland, Bulgaria, and Poland are the main buyers.
Outside the European Union, the United Kingdom is a reasonable buyer. Though the 8,000 tons it took last season were less than before. Spain is the UK's main supplier, followed by Belgium. The United Kingdom produces around 40,000 tons of leeks each season.