UK fruit and veg trade worth £2.2bn a year – Defra

The UK fruit and vegetable sectors have shown strong growth in values with total trade worth more than £2.2bn in 2017, according to Defra statistics.

For vegetables, the value of home-grown produce increased by 3.3% to £1.5bn in 2017, driven by a 4.9% rise in production to 2.7m tonnes.

The bulk of production was in field-scale operations which grew by 5.9% in volume compared with the previous 12 months.

The extra growth came mainly from a rise in the planted area of about 4% to cover 118,000ha (291,000 acres).

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Yields were also boosted by good soil conditions and warm weather although the continuing dry period hampered later-planted crops.

Despite the dry weather, the overall increase in production saw values rise by 4.2% (£44m) to £1.1bn.

Sales of protected vegetables increased, but only slightly by £2.7m (0.8%) to £356m.

However, the modest increase in value was achieved on lower production levels, which were down in 2017 for the second year in a row to 297,000t – a fall of 2.5% compared with 12 months earlier.

Despite the increase in home production, total supply of vegetables in the UK was down 0.6% to 4.8m tonnes as imports dropped by more than 7.5%.

The total supply of fruit on the UK market rose by 1.6% to 4.6m tonnes in 2017 as imports rose by 3.8%.

The increase in imports offset a fall in home production of 5.1% to 743,000t from an unchanged growing area at 35,000ha (86,500 acres).

The market value for all UK fruit rose significantly (up 9.2%) to £765m. This was almost entirely down to a 9.9% increase in outdoor production which accounted for £711m of the total.

Glasshouse fruit increased by £1m to £54m.However, within the overall fruit figures, home-grown apples fared badly. Market share for the home-produced crop showed a sharp decline, falling from 42% in 2016 to just 32% a year later.

The drop was caused by late frosts that hit Bramley and Cox orchards at fruit set. 

Overall fruit and vegetable trade

Overall, the value of imports and exports of fruit and vegetables was up. Vegetable exports hit a record high at £111m (up 1.8%) despite a 16% decline in volumes traded in 2017.

Import figures also dropped (down 7.8%) but the value traded rose by 4% to £2.4bn in 2017.

In the fruit sector, export values jumped by 34% to £155m in 2017. This was driven by 25% higher volumes totalling 177,000t.

However, export values were dwarfed by the total import cost at £3.9bn in 2017, a 6.3% increase on 2016 with volumes up by 3.8%.