Global fresh produce trade volumes trend downward

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Global fresh produce trade volumes trend downward

Global volumes of fruit and vegetable trade have followed a downward trend over the last few years, as was discussed in Freshfel Europe's virtual Annual Trade Meeting recently.

The discussion evaluated long and short-term global trade figures for the fresh fruit and vegetable sector with a focus on European exports, imports and intra-EU trade trends.

The analysis of global produce trends showed a positive development for both European and international trade of fresh produce with global fresh produce trade reaching €100 billion in 2020, as highlighted by Nelli Hajdu, Freshfel Europe Director for Trade & Business Development.

In turn, global volumes of produce trade have seen a decline since the peak was reached in 2018, down to 87 million tons of global trade in 2020, a tendency explained as an overall deceleration in the growth of booming categories, which has now been accentuated by pandemic disruptions over the past season.

Looking at Europe, fresh fruit and vegetables intra-EU trade volumes decreased by 11% compared to 2019 to 29.2 million tons, with prices reaching a peak of 1.29 per kilo as a result of strong consumer demand during the crisis.

In turn, EU exports outside of the Single Market went down to record low levels to 3.9 million tons, although value continued increasing up to 4.6 billion. 

"Demand continued to be strong in key non-EU European markets and the partial opening of the Mexican market for some EU produce has opened new possibilities, although export diversification remains low with volumes unable to recover pre-Russian embargo figures," Freshfel Europe Trade & Market Access Director Natalia Santos said.

Moreover, several booming markets for EU exports showed a decreased demand in 2020 compared to 2019 due to the pandemic, such as India, China, Qatar, Morocco and Egypt,” she said.

In terms of imports into the EU27, volumes showed a reduction of five percent compared to the previous year down to 12.8 million tons, with value continuously growing to 14.8 billion.

Most EU suppliers kept growing in the EU market despite the 2020 downturn with India, Guatemala, Egypt and Peru showing the greatest growth rates for 2015-2020. 

The future of fresh produce trade in light of European policy developments was also discussed, notably the European Green Deal, Farm to Fork Strategy and the recently adopted EU Trade Policy Review.

“It will be essential for the fresh fruit and vegetable sector to raise its voice in the coming years about the importance of boosting fresh produce consumption and trade to attain the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the European Green Deal’s objectives, especially concerning a move towards more sustainable, plant-based diets," Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard said.

“The sector has a responsibility to continue positioning itself in the circular economy debate and to stress the importance of both local and European production and international supply to secure year-round, diverse and sustainable fresh produce availability for European consumers."

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