How India can benefit from exports to Europe – Europe's expectation on quality in fresh fruits and vegetables. - Article published in Agrochain India trade show Feb 2012

Copyright 2012 Dr. Manuel Madrid – Director, Fruit Profits

The European Union (EU) is a significant importer of fruits and vegetables, with a value of 8.5 billion EUR in imported fruit and 3.6 billion EUR in imported vegetables in 2010. (See tables 1 and 2)

Due to the large range of climatic conditions in the EU, it can supply most of its needs of fruits and vegetables year round. Most countries have a local summer production, whereas the winter production is supplied by the Southern EU countries, mostly Spain.

There are some crops, however, not being produced in the EU. This is either because of their tropical origin or because they are produced in counter season, such as stone or pome fruits. The largest import fruit into the EU is bananas, with a total value of 2.5 billion EUR and total imports of 4.6 billion kg. Other important tropical import crops are pineapples with 901 million kg imported and a value of 565 million EUR; avocados, with 304 million EUR in value and 208 million kg; and mangoes, with a value of 265 million EUR and 224 million kg imported

Countries of origin are mostly in Latin America: Ecuador is the number 1 banana exporter and Costa Rica is the first pineapple exporter worldwide. Mangoes come mostly from Peru and Brazil.

On the temperate crops, the biggest import is grapes, which are imported counter season, winter and spring, when there is no European production. The value of imported grapes is almost 1 billion EUR. Apples (545 million EUR) and citrus (1240 million EUR) follow and are imported during the summer and autumn, when there is no local production. Grapes and apples come from Chile and South Africa; apples come from Chile and Brazil. Citrus come mostly from Uruguay, Argentina and South Africa

In terms of imported vegetables, the total value is less, and the margins are lower than in fruits. Competing on quality is more difficult due to its commodity nature, or is often used for processing. Competition is high and it is a more difficult market to enter due to low differentiation. Table 2 presents the major imported vegetables

The demand for imported fruits is very steady, and grows 1-2% per year at most. Many importers have long standing relations with producers in the exporting regions, and get sufficient volumes with good quality and price. Additionally these produces comply with all regulatory and certification requirements of their clients: GLOBAL GAP, BRC, SA 8000 are some of the most common. These certifications are environmental and social in nature. They are the minimum expected to comply with before even entering into a pricing or supply negotiation.


Therefore penetrating the EU fresh fruit market is not easy task. It requires:
- Excellent production and harvest facilities
- Trained personnel
- Compliance with all EU and retail chain regulations
- Impeccable postharvest sanitation and cold chain
- Proper packaging
- Fast logistics
- Competitive price compared to other producers worldwide


But importing fresh produce from India into the EU is not impossible. India has a multitude of climate and production conditions, already produces most of the tropical and subtropical crops and is well communicated with Europe through its ports.

Large Indian producers thinking of expanding their export markets should consider the requirements above and allocate proper resources: financial, human resources, information systems to excel in these requirements, compared to existing producers. Also accessing European expertise in postharvest technology, cold chain and marketing will facilitate the entry into the market, since he will be able to point out towards the easiest access routes, the requirement, and product demands.

Fruitprofits is a consulting company specialized in postharvest technology of fresh produce, cold chain and marketing in the EU. It advises fresh produce companies worldwide on ways to reduce costs and spoilage, improve their value chain processes and access new markets.

Check www.fruitprofits.com or write to manuel.madrid@fruitprofits.com 


TABLE 1. -EU FRUIT IMPORTS IN 2010, VALUE IN EUR. Source: Eurostat

EU-27 imports 2010 million EUR Tons
Bananas 2.796 4.600.000
Grapes 997 571.000
Pineapple 565 901.000
Orange 548 950.000
Apple 545 628.000
Lemon 406 462.000
Avocado 304 208.000
Mandarins 296 400.000
Pears 266 283.000
Mangos 265 224.000
Grapefruit 254 381.000
Melons 251 339.000
Kiwifruit 206 249.000
Dates 141 71.000
Cherries 131 42.000
Figs 109 40.000
Plums 91 63.000
Strawberry 68 36.000
Watermelon 67 19.000
Papaya 52 30.000
Peaches 51 27.000
Raspberries 40 10.000
Apricots 27 10.000




TABLE 2- EU VEGETABLE IMPORTS IN 2010
Crop total value in EUR
tomatoes 433.303.883
beans 320.935.805
peppers & chile peppers 317.546.679
kidney beans 310.124.537
frozen vegetables 267.758.679
mixed fresh vegetables 225.652.429
potatoes 154.015.207
onions 150.181.171
dried vegetables 148.028.702
lentils 147.308.020
garlic 124.174.850
asparagus 121.753.040
chickpeas 95.802.473
onions 75.652.959
dried peas 74.589.326
dried mushrooms 63.348.211
fresh peas 63.234.971
fresh mushrooms 60.159.906
preserved mushrooms 43.499.856


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