Leek is a small product in the fruit and vegetable range, but a very stable one. Although France is the largest producer, Belgium and the Netherlands are in charge of international trade. Both countries export around 60 to 70,000 tons of leeks every season, with a value of 70 to 80 million euros. About 160,000 tons of leeks are grown in France every year, but French exports are limited to around 10,000 tons. France imports more, namely about 20,000 tons per season.
Belgian leek production has fluctuated considerably in recent seasons, from 170,000 in 2021/22 to 140,000 tons in the past season. So almost half of this is exported. Belgium imports a modest amount of leek. In Belgium, a lot of leeks find their way to the (frozen) industry. In the Netherlands, between 90 and 100,000 tons of leeks are grown per season. More than half of this is intended for export. In addition, around 10,000 tons of leeks are imported. Spain, where between 60 and 80,000 tons of leek are grown, is exporting more and more. In the last season almost 30,000 tons. This means that exports have exceeded imports, which have been hovering around 25,000 tons for some time now.
Spanish product fills the gap
The export seasons of the Netherlands and Belgium are quite similar. For both countries, the focus falls on the winter half-year, with an emphasis on the period December-March. Spanish leek is mainly on the market in May and June. In the last 2022/23 season, Belgian exports fell sharply in June. That is why Belgian exports in the past season were somewhat smaller than those from the Netherlands, while previously Belgium was always the largest.
Netherlands: Two thirds for export
Leek production in the Netherlands has been fairly constant for about 25 years at a level of 80 to 100,000 tons. There is no trend up or down. It is true that production comes from an increasingly smaller area and the decline in the number of companies that grow leeks is even greater. The leek area in the Netherlands has fallen from 3,200 ha at the turn of the century to 2,200 ha today. The number of companies growing leeks has fallen from over 1,000 to 260 in the same period. On average, 350 tons of leeks are now grown on average. By far the most Dutch leeks come from North Brabant and Limburg.
The import of leeks in the Netherlands has grown in recent seasons to more than 11,000 tons. Most leeks were imported from Spain. In the past 2022/23 season, almost 60,000 tons of leeks were exported. That was a bit more than in the previous two seasons, but compared to before it was a normal amount. More than a third of Dutch leek exports are aimed at Germany. Sweden, Belgium, Italy, the Czech Republic, Spain and the UK are other suppliers with a reasonable export volume.
Last season Spain was Belgium’s most important customer
More than half of Belgian leek exports are aimed at Spain and France. In the past season, exports to France fell sharply to 15,500 tons. Exports to Spain actually grew and with 16,000 tons, Spain was Belgium’s most important buyer last season. Germany, the Netherlands and Poland are the other significant customers. France imports the most from Belgium and exports the most to Spain. Spain, in turn, also imports the most from Belgium and exports the most to Portugal.
More than a third of German imports from the Netherlands
Germany is also a reasonable producer of leek with a quantity of around 90,000 tons. Germany also imports a lot. However, in the past season the 36,000 tons was much less than in the two previous seasons when almost 50,000 tons were imported. The Netherlands is the most important supplier. Imports from Belgium, Italy, Egypt and Spain are also significant. Outside the EU, only Turkey counts. Outside the EU, the UK is a reasonable buyer of leeks, but the import of 8,000 tons last season was less than before. Spain is the UK’s main supplier followed by Belgium. The UK itself produces around 40,000 tonnes of leeks each season. Turkey is a major producer with normally a harvest of more than 200,000 tons. Only in 2022 it was much less. In that year, exports also fell sharply to 5,000 tons compared to 2021, while 13,500 tons could be exported in 2021. However, before that, Turkey exported no more than 3 to 4,000 tons. Switzerland, Bulgaria and Poland are the main customers.3
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Jan Kees Boon
Fruit and Vegetable Facts