Main statistical findings
The EU fruit and fresh vegetable sector is polarised between a few Member States responsible for the largest proportions of production, trading and processing, and several others that account individually for almost negligible volumes. Two thirds of the EU-28 population consume at least one portion of fruit and vegetables a day.
Fresh vegetables: holdings, areas and production
Almost 1 million holdings cultivated fresh vegetables
According to the most recent (2013) farm structure survey, almost 920 000 holdings grew fresh vegetables, which was 12.4 % of all European farms with an arable area. Nearly half (49.4 %) of those holdings were in just three countries: Romania (22.1 %), Poland (15.4 %) and Spain (11.9 %). By contrast, 15 countries accounted for shares of less than 1 % each (Figure 1).
The average area in the EU devoted to fresh vegetables per holding was 1.7 ha: the largest area was observed in the United Kingdom
Two Member States devoted areas to growing fresh vegetables which were much higher than the average: the United Kingdom (17.4 ha) and the Netherlands (10.3 ha). In 13 Member States, the average area devoted to fresh vegetables was below the EU average. These included Romania and Bulgaria (both 0.3 ha) and Lithuania (0.1 ha). This meant that, on the one hand, 14.0 % of the EU fresh vegetable area was on farms growing fresh crops on less than 1 ha. Such farms accounted for 79.5 % of all holdings cultivating vegetables. On the other hand, 20.5 % of holdings with at least 1 ha dedicated to fresh vegetables accounted for 86.0 % of the EU’s total area devoted to growing vegetables (Figure 2).
7.2 % of all European fresh vegetables were grown on land given over to cultivation under glass or other high accessible cover. However, the figure was much higher in Spain (17.2 %) and Italy (13.3 %).
Fresh vegetables were grown on almost 2.2 million hectares in the EU, nearly half of which were in Italy, Spain and Poland
In 2015, almost 2.2 million hectares of land in the EU was used to produce vegetables for fresh consumption and for processing. This amounts to 1.9 % of all EU arable land (Table 1, Figure 3). Melon and strawberry production is also included in the figure. Melons, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, courgettes, cucumbers and gherkins covered more than a quarter (27.6 %) of this area. Root, tuber & bulb vegetables, such as carrots, radishes, onions, shallots and garlic came second (18.8 %), followed closely (17.8 %) by the diverse group of leafy and stalked vegetables (such as lettuce, spinach, chicory, endives, asparagus, artichokes, etc.). Fresh pulses (mainly peas and beans) were produced on 13.0 % of the vegetable area, brassicas (cabbages, cauliflowers and broccoli) on 12.4 % and strawberries on 4.9 %.
Almost half (47.2 %) of the vegetable area was located in just three Member States. These were Italy (19.5 %), Spain (16.6 %) and Poland (11.1 %). This first group was followed by a second group made up of France (10.9 %) and Romania (7.1 %).
Among individual vegetable crops, tomatoes occupied the largest area, accounting for 11.7 % of the total vegetable area (Table 2). The areas used to grow tomatoes were predominately in Italy (41.9 %) and Spain (22.8 %), followed at a distance by Romania (9.5 %), Portugal (7.3 %) and Greece (6.7 %).
For production, the pattern was mostly the same: Italy and Spain were the leading countries, harvesting 36.3 % and 27.4 % of all EU tomatoes respectively. Portugal (8.0 %) and Greece (6.2 %) were third and fourth.
In Romania, tomato production accounted for just 2.6 %. By contrast, the Netherlands harvested 5.0 % of all European tomato production, even though the country cultivated a mere 0.7 % of the European area devoted to tomatoes.
Vegetable production takes up on average 2 % of arable land in EU, with Malta having the largest area of arable land dedicated to fresh vegetables
The amount of land devoted to growing fresh vegetables varied widely across the EU: in the EU as a whole, 1.9 % of all arable land was dedicated to fresh vegetables. In some Member States, the figure was well above the EU average, with the highest proportion in Malta (22.3 %), followed by the Netherlands (7.7 %), Italy (6.0 %) and Belgium (5.5 %). By contrast, in 11 countries the figure was less than 1 %.
Fresh vegetables were grown on 1 in 8 arable farms in the EU (12.4 %), with shares varying from 60.5 % in Lithuania and 36.0 % in Bulgaria to only 1 % in Ireland (Figure 4).
85 000 hectares of organic fresh vegetables: 53.4 % in Poland, France and Italy
Organic vegetable farming was practised on 2.5 % of EU holdings cultivating fresh vegetables and on 5.3 % of the area dedicated to these crops. 12.6 % of all certified organic farms grew organic fresh vegetables. However, the area devoted to organic fresh vegetables made up just 1.3 % of all certified organically managed hectares.
Over half (53.6 %) of the total area dedicated to organic fresh vegetable cultivation was located in just three Member States: Poland (19.8 %), France (17.3 %) and Italy (16.5 %). These three were followed by Germany (13.0 %) and Spain (10.0 %) (Table 3).