In March, fruit registered a growth of 10% by volume and 19% by value compared to the same month in 2019, totaling 658,103 tons and 836.7 million euros and registering strong increases in most products, except for strawberries. Citrus fruits, the main fruits exported this month, registered the greatest increases both in volume and value. Also noteworthy is the very positive performance of pip fruit, with apple export growth of 47% by volume and 61% by value compared to March 2019, totalling 12,385 tons and 9.3 million euros, as well as for pears with 7,140 tons and 5.6 million euros, 5% and 21% more respectively.
On the other hand, strawberries registered a negative trend in March, with a decrease in shipments of 3.4% by volume and 8% by value, totalling 76,934 tons and 153.5 million euros. This was because, in these exceptional times when European consumers have been confined to their homes, they have chosen to go out less frequently to shop and they are opting for longer-lasting products.
In terms of vegetables, exports in March registered a slight fall of 2%, totaling 669,119 tons, while the value grew by 7%, reaching 755 million euros. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and cabbages were the most exported. Tomato and pepper registered lower volumes, with 15% less for tomatoes equivalent to 100,857 tons, and 5% less for peppers equivalent to 114,191 tons. However, they grew in value, by 129 million euros for tomatoes (+ 2%) and 170 million euros for peppers (+ 1%). Lettuce exports fell, at 102,693 tons (-9%) and 91 million euros (-2%), while cabbages grew both in volume, with 77,609 tons (+ 5.5%) and in value, with 85 million euros (+ 14%).
In the accumulated total from January to March, there has also been an increase in exports of fruit and vegetable of 2.5% in volume, totalling 3.9 million tons, and 12% in value, amounting to almost 4.53 billion euros. The increase has occurred in both the community and non-community markets.
Sales to the EU in the first quarter of the year amounted to almost 4.21 billion euros, 12% more than in the same period of the previous year, representing 92% of the total, with sales outside the EU also growing by 12.5%, standing at 323 million euros.
The main community destinations grew by over 10% compared to exports in the first quarter of 2019, including Germany, with 1.22 billion euros (+14%); France, with 698 million euros (+13%); the United Kingdom, with 637 million euros (+12%) and the Netherlands, with 418 million euros (+13%).
Outside the EU, the leading destinations are non-EU European countries, such as Switzerland, which grew by 17% totalling 97 million euros and Norway, where fresh fruits and vegetables worth 42 million euros were exported, an increase of 21%.
In the extra-European framework, in the first quarter of the year, there was growth in the Arab countries, which have been showing positive progress in recent years. Fruit and vegetable exports to the United Arab Emirates from January to March grew by 32% compared to the first quarter of 2019, totalling 15.2 million euros and those destined for Saudi Arabia stood at 14.2 million euros, a 30% increase. In both destinations, exports are concentrated mainly in citrus and apples in the case of fruit and in cabbages, lettuce and onions in the case of vegetables.
The statistics for March reflect the strength of fruit and vegetable exports in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis and their strategic importance, both socially and economically, given their labour-intensive nature, according to FEPEX. It is also one of the few sectors in the Spanish trade balance that have registered a positive trend.