Study on agri-food imports and their role in the EU supply chains, including dried fruits and nuts

25 JANUARY 2022

On 20 January, the European Commission published a study on the role of agri-food imports and their impacts on EU supply chains. The study, by contractors Ecorys and Wageningen University Research, provides an analysis on the impact of agri-food imports on EU agricultural production and on other parts of the agri-food value chain, including the economic, social and environmental implications. It covers the period 2005-2018.

In relation to dried fruit and nuts, the study notes the following:

-Nuts and spices (mostly almonds and pistachios) contributed to the steady increase of imports from North America, which grew overall from EUR 7.7 billion to EUR 14 billion between 2005 and 2018. The USA is also one of largest exporter of tree nuts to the EU.

-Nuts were also helped boost India from 15th to 10th largest exporter to the EU.

-Tropical fruit, fresh or dried, nuts and Fruit, fresh or dried, excl. citrus & tropical fruit were two of the products categories which saw a significant increase in imports to the EU between 2005 and 2018.

Tropical fruits, fresh or dried, nuts and spices
The demand for tropical fruits, nuts and spices has significantly increased as European consumers have become more aware of their health benefits and have begun demanding larger quantities and more varieties of these products.

The import value of tropical fruits, nuts and spices doubled between 2005 and 2018 (+103%), reaching EUR 13.5 billion in 2018. The volume imported increased in smaller proportion (61%), reaching 9.7 million tonnes in 2018. The discrepancy between the pace of growth in the value and volume imported points to the significant role of higher prices in the change in total import value.

This trend is largely driven by the sustained imports of bananas (incl. plantains) and the very fast growth in avocado and cashew nut imports. Bananas alone accounted for one-third of the total import value of tropical fruits, nuts and spices between 2005 and 2018. Avocados and cashew nuts accounted for 5% of the total imports of this product category and they had the strongest increase in imports(+408% and +263%, respectively). Other important component of the category are almonds (11% of total EU imports between 2005 and 2018), hazelnuts (7%) and pineapples (6%). The EU also increased its imports of more niche products such as lychees, mangoes, guavas, and vanilla.

The EU diversified the origins of tropical fruits, nuts and spices between 2005 and 2018, which allows it to satisfy increasing year-round demand, larger quantities and more varieties of these products. For example, the USA, Costa Rica and Ecuador, Colombia and Turkey supplied 58% of the total imports of this category. This share dropped to 48% in 2018. New important origins such as Vietnam, Peru gained importance in terms of value of exports of tropical Fruits, nuts and spices to the EU. EU production, on the other hand, is marginal relative to imports. Nevertheless, production data indicate a fast growth pace of 8% on average per year between 2005 and 2018. The production of Bananas and Nuts increased significantly. Banana production increased from 28 000 tonnes to 610 000 tonnes (+2 112%), and nuts production increased from 704 000 tonnes to 1.1 million tonnes. The EU produces very little spices. Domestic consumption increased from 7 million tonnes to 12 million tonnes between 2005 and 2018.

Fruit, fresh or dried, excl. citrus & tropical fruit
Fruits, excl. citrus and tropical fruits were imported in smaller proportions than tropical fruits, nuts and spices, but remain an important agri-food import. The imports of fruits, excl. citrus and tropical fruits increased by 72% between 2005 and 2018, reaching EUR 6.8 billion in 2018. The volume, on the other hand, only increased by 10% to reach 4.1 million tonnes in 2018. This large discrepancy points to the important effect of price in this increase.

The most important fruit products imported by the EU are fresh and dried grapes, fresh apples and fresh berries. The imports of frozen fruits and nuts increased significantly between 2005 and 2018, driven by a stronger demand in the food processing industry. The EU continues to import most fruits from Chile, South Africa and Turkey. These three countries account for about 40% of the total value of fruit imports to the EU between 2005 and 2018. However, the EU also saw new significant sources of imports from Morocco (driven by red fruits and cranberries exports) and Peru (driven by grapes and cranberries exports). Their share in the total supply of fruits to the EU increased from 4% and 0% to 9% and 7%, respectively.

The EU production of fruits, excluding citrus and tropical fruits, is much larger than its imports. Production increased by 23% between 2005 and 2008, from 48 million tonnes to 59 million tonnes. The EU is an important producer of fresh grapes (almost half of the total EU fruit production), pome fruits (apples, pear, quince) and stone fruits (peaches, plums, cherries, nectarines, apricots, etc). Imports compensate for the gap between production and consumption, particularly to ensure the supply of fresh fruits to EU consumers when they are off-season. Consumption is estimated to have increased by 21% between 2005 and 2018, from 51.9 million tonnes to 63.1 million tonnes.

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Contact: Lebo Mofolo,