Understanding where our food comes from
Our experts' opinion
"It is important to understand where our food comes from. These statistics on agricultural products may be used to analyse developments within agricultural markets in order to help distinguish between cycles and changing production patterns; they can also be used to study how markets respond to policy actions. Agricultural product data also provide supply-side information, furthering understanding as to price developments."
- Lien Vertommen, Senior Associate
Agricultural production - crops
This article is part of a set of statistical articles based on the Eurostat Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics. The term ‘crop’ covers a very broad range of cultivated plants. Within each type of crop there can also be considerable diversity in terms of genetic and phenotypic (physical or biochemical) characteristics. The range and variety of crops grown across the European Union (EU) reflects their heritable traits as well as the ability of plant breeders to harness those traits to best respond to the myriad of topographic and climatic conditions, pests and diseases.
The statistics on crop production in this article are shown at an aggregated level and have been selected from over 100 different crop products for which official statistics are collected.
Main statistical findings
IIn 2016, the harvest of cereals in the EU decreased by about 4.4 % compared to the previous year, which was largely explained by unfavourable climatic conditions.
The harvested production of cereals (including rice) in the EU-28 was around 301 million tonnes in 2016. This represented about 11.6 % of global cereal productionI[]. EU-28 production of cereals in 2016 was almost 13.9 million tonnes lower than in 2015 (see Figure 1).
Common wheat and spelt, grain maize and corn-cob-mix (CCM) and barley accounted for a high share (85.4 % in 2016) of the cereals produced in the EU-28 (see Figure 2). Compared to 2015, EU-28 cereal production decreased by 4.4 % in 2016. A decrease was recorded for common wheat and spelt (-11.5%), rye and winter cereal mixtures (- 6.2 %) and barley (-3.0%), while grain maize and oats increased by about 6.5%and 6.9% respectively (see Figure 3).
France accounted for around a fifth of the EU-28 cereal production in 2016. France (18.0 %), Germany (15.1 %) and Poland (9.9 %) together contributed to 43% of the EU total. Spain was the next largest cereal producer, accounting for 8.0 % of the EU-28 total. Among the EU Member States, France was the largest producer of common wheat and spelt, and grain maize in 2016, for barley Germany was the largest producer with 17.9 % (see Figure 4).
In 2016, the relatively good cereal harvest, combined with sufficient stocks and a general negative trend in the common market, led to a decrease in the price of cereals []. This went down by 8.5% compared to 2015 and by 21.4% if compared to the average of the previous 5 years (see Figure 9).
The median of soft wheat prices for 25 countries providing the data was 14.06 EUR/100 kg (see Table 4).
Potatoes and sugar beet
In 2016, the largest area of root crops (1.7 million hectares) was occupied by potatoes, closely followed by sugar beet (1.5 million hectares). Other root crops not classified elsewhere (e.g. fodder beet, fodder kale, rutabaga, fodder carrot, turnips, etc.) were of lesser importance. Thus, this section concentrates on potatoes and sugar beet only and offers an overview of selected statistics and indicators linked to their production in the EU-28.
The EU is the world’s leading producer of sugar beet, with approximately 50 % of the global production but only 20 % of the world’s sugar production comes from sugar beet [].
The EU sugar market has been regulated by production quotas until September 2017. The European Commission's DG for Agriculture and Rural development has set up a Sugar Market Observatory in order to provide the EU sugar sector with more transparency by means of disseminating market data and short-term analysis in a timely manner [].
France, Germany and Poland had the highest shares of potato and sugar beet production in the EU
In 2016, the EU-28 produced 111.7 million tonnes of sugar beet — 9.7 million tonnes more than in 2015 (see Figure 5). More than half of the EU-28 sugar beet production in 2016 came from France (31.0 %) and Germany (22.8 %) combined, Poland (12.1 %) and the United Kingdom (5.1 %) being the next largest producers.
In contrast to sugar beet, potato production was more widely spread across the EU Member States. Even so, Germany, which reported the highest level of production (19.2 % of the EU-28 total in 2016), and Poland (15.4 %) produced more than one-third of EU-28 total production. Together with three other Member States, the Netherlands (11.7 %), France (12.4 %) and the United Kingdom (9.6 %), these five countries produced 68.4 % of total EU-28 potato production.
Main oilseed crops cultivated in the EU are rape and turnip rape, sun flower and soya. The production was 31.1 million tonnes in the EU in 2016 [] which is in line with the 5-year average (-0.8 % if compared to the 5-year average). However some shifts occurred between crops.
In 2016, the rape and turnip rape seeds production was 20 million tonnes and it was the most common oil seed crop in the EU despite its sharp decline since 2014 (-17.1%)(see Figure 6).
The EU-28 sunflower seed production in 2016 was 8.8 million tonnes, a decrease of -14.8 % compared to 2014, followed by an increase of 10.7 % between 2015 and 2016.
In 2016, the EU-28 soya production accounted for 2.5 million tonnes, with a steady increase since 2012.
The EU supports the fruits and vegetables through the Common Market Organisation for Fruit and Vegetable (CMO). This policy has four main goals:
- a more competitive and market-oriented sector;
- less crisis-related instabilities in producers' income;
- more consumption of fruit and vegetables in the EU; and
- increased use of eco-compatible cultivation and production techniques.
The vegetable sector is a key sector in EU agriculture, weighting 13.7 % of EU agricultural output.
In 2016, the total production of vegetables in the EU was 63.9 million tonnes in 2016. Spain (24.1 %) and Italy (17.4 %) were the most important producers.
Tomatoes, carrots and onions were the most important vegetables in 2016. In the EU 17.9 million tonnes of tomatoes were produced in 2016. Approximately two thirds came from Italy and Spain (11.2 million tonnes). Around 6.6 million tonnes of onions and 5.6 million tonnes of carrots were also produced in 2016 (see Table 3). Carrot production was relatively high in Poland and the United Kingdom — together these two countries accounted for over a quarter (14.7 % and 12.9 % respectively) of EU-28 output in 2016. The Netherlands and Spain were the EU’s main onion producing Member States, together accounting for 43.4 % of EU-28 output in 2016.
The price index of fresh vegetables decreased by 1.0 % compared to 2015, and increased by 2.5 % if compared to the average of the previous 5 years (see Figure 9). The median price for tomatoes [] was € 68.37 per 100 kg (see Table 4).
The fruit sector is another key element in EU agriculture, weighting 6.8 % of EU agricultural output.
In 2016, the total fruit production in the EU was 36.4 million tonnes. Spain (29.1%), Italy (23.9 %) and Poland (12.2 %).
The EU fruit sector offers a large number of different products. The most important fruits, in terms of the volume of harvested products, are apples (12.6 million tonnes), oranges (6.4 million tonnes) and peaches (2.7 million tonnes).
Apples are produced in almost all EU Member States, although Poland (28.7%), Italy (19.5%) and France (14.5%) are, by far, the largest producers. Orange production in the EU is much more restricted by climatic conditions; the vast majority of oranges (80.4 %) are produced in Spain (55.4%) and Italy (25.0%).
In 2016, the price index for fruits increased by 3.1% compared with 2015 and by 6.5% compared with the period 2010-2015 (see Figure 9). The median price of dessert apples [] was about € 45.99 per 100 kg (see Table 4).
The EU is the world's leading producer of wine, with almost half of the global vine-growing area and approximately 62.3% of production by volume [].
Since the introduction of the common market organisation (CMO), the wine market has developed considerably.
The total production of grapes was 23.7 million tonnes in 2016. Italy (30.4 %), France (26.1 %), and Spain (24.5 %) were the EU countries producing most grapes for wine use, making up 81.0 % of total production (see Figure 7). They were followed by Germany (5.2 %), Portugal (3.3 %), Romania (2.9 %), Greece (2.3 %), Hungary (1.8 %), and Austria (1.1 %). Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia are also significant grape producers.
In 2016, the price of wine increased by 3.0 % compared to 2016 and by 7.4 % in comparison to the period 2010-2015 (see Figure 9). The median price of grapes [] for wine production was € 41.70 per 100 kg (see Table 4).
The EU is also the largest producer of olive oil in the world, accounting for almost three quarters of global production []. Most of global production comes from Southern Europe, North Africa and the Near East as 95% of the olive trees in the world are cultivated in the Mediterranean region.
The total production of olives was 10 million tonnes in 2016. The main European olive producers were Spain (65.6%), Italy (19.4%), Greece (9.5 %) and Portugal (4.8%) in 2016 (see Figure 8).
The olive oil price index decreased in 2016 compared to 2015 by 5.5 %. If we consider the rate of change over the period 2010-2016 the increase was 43.8 % (see Figure 9). The median price of extra virgin olive oil [] was € 355.50 per 100 litres (see Table 4).
Data sources and availability
Statistics on crop products are obtained by sample surveys, supplemented by administrative data and estimates based on expert observations. The sources vary from one EU Member State to another because of national conditions and statistical practices. National Statistical Institutes or Ministries of Agriculture are responsible for data collection in accordance with EU Regulations. The finalised data sent to Eurostat are as harmonised as possible. Eurostat is responsible for establishing EU aggregates.
The statistics that are collected on agricultural products relate to more than 100 individual crop products. Information is collected for the area under cultivation (expressed in 1 000 hectares), the quantity harvested (expressed in 1 000 tonnes) and the yield (expressed in 100 kg per hectare). For some products, data at a national level may be supplemented by regional statistics at NUTS 1 or 2 level.
Agricultural price statistics
EU agricultural price statistics (APS) are based on voluntary agreements between EUROSTAT and the Member States. The National Statistical Institutes or Ministries of Agriculture are responsible for collecting absolute prices and calculating corresponding average prices for their country, as well as for calculating price indices and periodically updating the weights. Price indices are reported quarterly and annually. Absolute prices are reported annually. The agricultural prices expressed in national currency are converted into EURO by EUROSTAT using the fixed exchange rates or financial market exchange rates, in order to allow comparisons between the Member States. Eurostat is responsible for calculating indices for the EU.
There is a diverse range of natural environments, climates and farming practices across the European Union (EU), reflected in the broad array of food and drink products that are made available for human consumption and animal feed, as well as a range of inputs for non-food processes. Indeed, agricultural products form a major part of the cultural identity of the EU’s people and its regions.
Statistics on agricultural products may be used to analyse developments within agricultural markets in order to help distinguish between cycles and changing production patterns; they can also be used to study how markets respond to policy actions. Agricultural product data also provide supply-side information, furthering understanding as regards price developments which are of particular interest to agricultural commodity traders and policy analysts.