While the past few years have been challenging for the German tree fruit industry, battling with the oversupply effects of the Russian ban while also dealing with significant weather issues, the country’s total planting area for the category has actually risen by more than 4,000 hectares since 2012.
In its summary of the latest survey of the country’s tree fruit sector from the German Federal Office of Statistics (destatis), a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) division highlights the planted area registered in the 2017 census was up 10% at 49,935ha.
The USDA’s Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report mentioned apples were the most planted fruit trees accounting for 68% of total fruit tree area, followed by sweet cherries, plums, and pears.
However, 4% of German tree fruit farms have stopped operating since 2012.
“This is symptomatic of a trend towards larger farms. In an attempt to remain viable, larger commercial farms are trying to increase their area by buying or leasing additional land partly from smaller fruit farms which stopped producing,” said report author Sabine Lieberz.
“The very small farms (<2 ha) are usually run part time, with the owners generating most of the household income outside of agriculture. For them it is challenging to both keep up with the technical developments and to find a successor upon retirement,” Lieberz said.
The surface area dedicated to apples is 33,981ha, followed by sweet cherries (6,066ha), plums (4,199ha), pears (2,137ha), sour/tart cherries (1,948ha), and mirabelle plums (639ha).
Less than 2% of German fruit-bearing tree area is made up of peaches, apricots, and walnuts.
Germany’s leading apple variety Elstar has seen a 13% rise in planting area while the uptick has also been substantial for other key varieties like Braeburn (+17%), Gala (+25%), Pinova (+10%), Topaz (+32%) and Kanzi (+39%).
Varieties that have been on the way out include Boskoop (-21%), Golden Delicious (-33%) and Idared (-42%).
“The majority of German consumers favor “sweet and sour” tasting apples as opposed to “just sweet” apples. Elstar, Jonagold, and many of the old traditional varieties serve this taste,” the author said.
“However, some of the old traditional varieties are difficult to handle, such as Berlepsch which is very susceptible to bruising.”