How self-sufficient is the UK in terms of its supply of fruits and vegetables?

Britain is heavily dependent on imports of vegetables and above all fruits. The country produces more than half of the vegetables it consumes. Imports decreased in 2020, but production remained the same. The UK self-sufficiency rate for vegetables has therefore increased from around 3% to 56%.

This has ended the long-term declining trend in vegetable self-sufficiency. As for fresh fruit, only 16% of domestic consumption comes from products grown on English soil. This value is the same as in previous years and is based on data from the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

In recent years, total vegetable production in the UK has remained fairly stable at 2.5–2.6 million tonnes. In the past it was more. English horticulture is represented mainly by large and open ground vegetables. Carrots are, by far, the most important product; In 2020, farmers cultivated 700,000 tonnes. Onions and cabbages follow with 400,000 tonnes each.

Greenhouse vegetable production is quite modest, with a total of 270,000 tonnes. In this case, tomato is the most important product, with only 65,000 tonnes. The self-sufficiency rate of different vegetables varies greatly every year. They range from 100% for carrots, 90% for cabbage and 60% for cauliflower, 50% for mushrooms, 33% for lettuce and 15% for tomatoes.

As for fruits, only strawberries have a self-sufficiency rate of more than 50%. In 2020, the UK produced less fruit – 650,000 tonnes – when a crop of 750,000 tonnes is more common for the country. Apples are the main product with 200,000 tonnes for direct consumption. At 25,000 tonnes, English pear production is very modest.

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Strawberry production was low in 2020 with 125,000 tonnes. In the past two years, UK farmers have harvested 140,000 tonnes. The self-sufficiency rate of fruit grown in the UK varies, up to 70% for strawberries, 40% for apples and raspberries, and up to 20% for pears.

Importer of third world vegetables and sixth fruits
With around 3.5 million tonnes of fruits and 2.2 million tonnes of vegetables, the UK is a major importer. For vegetables, it ranks third after the United States and Germany. At the same time, in terms of fruit, it is at sixth place after America, Germany, Russia, China and the Netherlands. Great Britain imports mainly tomatoes, with 400,000 tons, and onions between 300,000 and 400,000 tons.

The following: peppers (220,000 tons), lettuce (200,000 tons), cucumbers (200,000 tons), cauliflower/broccoli (130,000 tons) and mushrooms (120,000 tons). As for the import of English fruits, bananas are the first products to be purchased abroad: the country imports more than a million tons per year. It is followed by apples with 350,000 tonnes, melons (320,000 tonnes), mandarins (310,000 tonnes), grapes (280,000 tonnes) and oranges (270,000 tonnes).

A tough Brexit happened on 1 January this year. This has raised questions about UK fresh fruit and vegetable import figures for the time being. According to British customs, imports from EU countries decreased by 12% in the first half of 2021 compared to the first half of 2020. There could also be a 20% reduction in imports from the Netherlands and Belgium. Other sources have not (yet) confirmed these figures.

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Click here for the information sheet (in Dutch).

for more information:
Jan Kees Boon
fruit and vegetable facts
Tel: +31 (0) 654 687 684
Email: [email protected]

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