The EU potato sector - statistics on production, prices and trade
Data extracted in February 2017
Planned update: June 2019
Authors: Antonella De Cicco, Jean-Claude Jeanty
53 million tonnes of potatoes were harvested in the EU in 2015, a decrease of 36 % from 2000.
Production of potatoes, including seed, 2015 - share of EU-28 harvested production (%)
This article describes the potato sector in the European Union. A range of agricultural data from a number of Eurostat agricultural statistics (farm structure survey, annual crop production statistics, agricultural prices, agricultural economics accounts) are used as well as trade and industrial production statistics to depict the various stages in the process of bringing potatoes from the field to the market.
A total of 53 million tonnes of potatoes were harvested in the EU in 2015 (down by 36 % from 2000). Germany was the main producer
The EU potato sector is polarised between a few Member States responsible for the largest proportions of production, trading and processing, and several others that account individually for almost negligible volumes.
In 2015, 53 million tonnes of potatoes were harvested in the EU. Germany was the biggest producer, with a share of 19.5 %, ahead of France (13.4 %), the Netherlands (12.5 %), Poland (11.6 %), and the United Kingdom (10.5 %). This means that, of every three tonnes, two were grown in just five Member States (see Table 1 and Figure 1).
In 2000, the EU-28 potato harvest was 83 million tonnes; however overall production has declined steadily since then (down by 36 % between 2000 and 2015). Various trends emerge at national level (see Figure 2): harvests have fallen in four of the five big producer countries, albeit at different rates. Poland has seen the sharpest drop (-74.6 %). In France, the trend has been slightly positive.
Farms and area
Almost 1.6 million hectares under potatoes – nearly 50 % of which are in Poland, Germany and France
According to the most recent (2013) farm structure survey, potatoes were cultivated on 1.59 million ha in the EU-28 (see Table 2). Just three Member States accounted for almost half (46.9 %) of this total: Poland (21.2 %), Germany (15.2 %) and France (10.5 %), followed by the Netherlands (9.8 %) and the United Kingdom (8.8 %). Among the other Member States, 11 contributed less than 1 % each (see Figure 3).
Almost 1.9 million farms grew potatoes: nearly two in three were in just two Member States: Romania (38.1 %) and Poland (27.2 %), while 15 Member States accounted for shares of less than 1 % each (see Figure 4).
The average potato area per farm was 0.8 ha; in Denmark it reached 20.6 ha
These farms devoted an average of 0.8 ha to potatoes. This includes much higher figures in three Member States: Denmark (20.6 ha on average), the Netherlands (17.0 ha) and the United Kingdom (16.9 ha), and below average areas in 13 Member States, including Poland (0.7 ha) and Romania (0.2 ha). As a result, there was an inverse distribution of holdings by size of potato area and farm numbers: 18.5 % of the EU area cultivated with potatoes was on farms growing potatoes on less than 1 ha, which represented 91.3 % of all holdings cultivating potatoes. Conversely, 0.8 % of holdings with at least 20 ha planted with potatoes accounted for 42.1 % of total EU potato area (see Figure 5).
In the Netherlands, 15 % of all arable land was under potato, while the figure for the EU as a whole was 1.5 %
The scale of potato cultivation varies widely across Member States. In the EU as a whole, the area dedicated to potatoes was 1.5 % of all arable land, but in the Netherlands it was 15 %, in Belgium it reached 9.1 % and in Malta it was 8.1 %, while in 13 countries it was 1 % or less. Potatoes were grown on one in four arable farms in the EU (25.3 %), ranging from over two in three in Latvia (72.1 %) and Slovenia (70.0 %) to only 2.4 % in Italy and 2.0 % in Ireland (see Figure 6).
23 900 ha of organic potatoes, a third of which were in Germany
According to the 2013 farm structure survey, organic farming was practised on only 1.1 % of EU holdings cultivating potatoes and on 1.5 % of the area dedicated to the crop. Of all organic farms, 10.4 % grew organic potatoes, but the organic potato area made up just 0.3 % of all organically managed hectares. Over half of the total area dedicated to organic potato cultivation was located in just three Member States: Germany (33.7 %), Austria (12.9 %) and France (8.9 %), followed by Poland (8.5 %) and the Netherlands (6.2 %) (see Table 3).
Values and prices
European raw potatoes were worth EUR 10 billion, with France accounting for the largest proportion in value terms
In 2015, the value of the EU’s production of potatoes (including seed potatoes) at basic prices (i.e. including subsidies, but excluding taxes on products) was EUR 10 billion (see Table 4 and Figure 7).
This represented 2.5 % of the value of total EU agricultural output. However, the proportion varied significantly at Member State level, from 6.2 % in Belgium to 0.7 % in Luxembourg. In terms of value of crop output, potatoes accounted for 4.7 % at EU level and at national level between 13.6 % in Belgium and 1.2 % in Bulgaria.
Almost half (48.6 %) of potato production (in value terms) came from just three countries: France (19.9 %), Germany (15.5 %) and the Netherlands (13.3 %). The United Kingdom (7.6 %) and Romania (7.1 %) ranked fourth and fifth, while 14 Member States accounted for less than 1 % each.
Highly variable prices from year to year, both on farmer and consumer markets
Selling prices for potatoes fluctuated significantly in all respects: over time, across countries and across types of potato (early, seed, main crop) (see Table 5). In 2015, the highest price for main crop potatoes was registered in Greece and it was 4.8 times greater than the lowest recorded in Belgium; for early potatoes the highest registered price was in France and it was 11.8 times greater than the lowest, recorded in Poland.
Prices paid by consumers have also fluctuated significantly: in the national data available for 2015, the highest registered price was in the Netherlands and it was 4.2 times greater than the lowest, recorded in Poland (see Table 6).
Member States exported potatoes both outside and within the EU (to other Member States), the latter being far more significant in terms of both value and volume (see Tables 7 and 8).
Potatoes were traded mainly on the EU internal market: France, the Netherlands and Germany were the leading traders
Intra EU trade in potatoes was quite dynamic in 2015 across all Member States: about 6 million tonnes were exported to other EU markets, for a value of almost EUR 1.3 billion (0.04 % of all intra EU exports). This involved mainly standard table (main crop) potatoes (68.3 % of total intra EU potato exports in value terms); seed potatoes accounted for 19.3 % and early potatoes for 10.6 %, while starch potatoes made up the remaining 1.8 %. Three Member States accounted for almost two thirds of intra EU exports in value terms: France (28.5 %), the Netherlands (17.9 %) and Germany (17.1 %), followed at a distance by Belgium (10.5 %). France and Germany primarily exported main crop potatoes (36.2 % and 20.4 % respectively in value terms), while 59.1 % (in value terms) of all seed potatoes traded within the EU came from the Netherlands. Italy and Spain were the most active intra EU traders of early potatoes, both accounting for 22.8 % each.
93.4 % of all imported potatoes were early potatoes
In 2015, the EU imported few potatoes from non-EU countries: 306 200 tonnes entered the European market from abroad, for a value of about EUR 114.3 million. These were almost all (93.4 %) early potatoes: 286 000 tonnes (worth EUR 106 million) entered the European market from southern and eastern Mediterranean countries; more than half (52.7 %) were from Egypt, 45.5 % from Israel and the remaining 1.8 % from Morocco and Tunisia.
The EU is a net exporter of seed and main crop potatoes and the Netherlands was the leading trader
The EU is a net exporter of potatoes: in 2015, it shipped 1.4 million tonnes for a value of EUR 540 million (0.03 % of the total value of extra EU exports). These were mainly seed potatoes (71.9 % in value and 55 % in volume) and some crop potatoes (26.8 % in value and 43.6 % in volume ); thus, exports of early and starch potatoes were almost negligible. Two thirds of seed potatoes (66.0 % in value and 67.3 % in volume terms) were exported to southern and eastern Mediterranean countries. Egypt was the first trading partner in value terms (20.0 %), while Algeria imported the highest volume (20.3 %) of European seed potatoes. The EU exported crop potatoes mainly to Senegal (12.5 % in value; 14.5 % in volume) and Norway (13.2 % in value; 6.4 % in volume). All other partners imported smaller proportions of EU crop potatoes.
Potato exports were generally transported by sea (85.0 % in value; 82.7 % in quantity) and road (14.8 %; 17.1 %).
Among the Member States, the Netherlands was the outstanding exporter, with an overall share of 62.3 % in value and 61.6 % in volume; France followed at some distance (11.1 %; in value and 11.5 % in volume). The United Kingdom ranked third in value (9.4 %) and fourth in volume (5.9 %) while Germany was fourth in value (7.4 %) and third in volume (9.8 %).
Processed potatoes (mainly frozen chips and crisps) were worth EUR 9.4 billion, or 1.1 % of the overall value of EU food and beverage industry output. Processing is concentrated in six countries
Besides being consumed directly and traded as a raw commodity, potatoes are processed into four main types of product: frozen potatoes, dried potatoes, prepared or preserved potatoes, and potato starch (see Table 9). The overall value of EU processed potato production reached EUR 9.4 billion in 2015, or 1.1 % of the value of production of the whole European food and beverage industry. With shares of 41.0 % and 40.5 %, crisps and frozen chips were the most important products in terms of value of production.
The EU was a net exporter of processed potatoes, with imports representing a mere 2.2 % of the value of its own output. On average, the value of exports represented 15.1 % of the value of production, although this includes figures of 44.4 % in the case of potato starch and 32.0 % for dried potatoes (flour, meal flakes, granules and pellets).
Potato processing took place mainly in six countries: the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. Although for reasons of data confidentiality, it is not possible to produce a single ranking, a degree of specialisation could be observed across countries. Italy was the leading country for frozen potatoes (uncooked or cooked by steaming or boiling in water), with a share of 61.7 % in value terms; Germany had the lion's share in producing dried potatoes (74.0 % and potatoes prepared or preserved as flour, meal and flakes (51.3 %); the Netherlands produced a third of all European frozen chips (33.7 %); and the United Kingdom registered the largest value share of crisp production (20.8%) followed by Germany (17.9%)
Source data for tables and graphs
The statistical information presented in this publication is drawn from the Eurostat database, available at the Eurostat website.
Statistics on crop production
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 EC Regulations. The finalised data sent to Eurostat are as harmonised as possible. Eurostat is responsible for establishing EU aggregates. The statistics collected on agricultural products cover 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 level 1 or level 2.
Statistics on the structure of agricultural holdings (FSS)
A comprehensive Farm structure survey (FSS) is carried out by EU Member States every 10 years (the full scope being the agricultural census) and intermediate sample surveys are carried out twice between these basic surveys. The statistical unit is the agricultural holding; the EU Member States collect information from individual agricultural holdings, covering:
- land use;
- livestock numbers;
- rural development (for example, activities other than agriculture);
- management and farm labour input (including age, sex and relationship to the holder).
Survey data are aggregated to different geographic levels (countries, regions, and for basic surveys also districts) and arranged by size class, area status, legal status of holding, objective zone and farm type. In the FSS organic data has been collected since the 2000 Census.
Economic accounts for agriculture (EAA)
Data on EAA provide an insight into:
- the economic viability of agriculture;
- agriculture’s contribution to each EU Member State’s wealth;
- the structure and composition of agricultural production and inputs;
- the remuneration of factors of production;
- relationships between prices and quantities of both inputs and outputs.
The output of agricultural activity includes output sold (including trade in agricultural goods and services between agricultural units), changes in stocks, output for own final use (own final consumption and own-account gross fixed capital formation), output produced for further processing by agricultural producers, as well as intra-unit consumption of livestock feed products. The output of the agricultural sector is made up of the sum of the output of agricultural products and of the goods and services produced in inseparable non-agricultural secondary activities; animal and crop output are the main product categories of agricultural output.
Eurostat also collects annual agricultural prices (in principle net of VAT) to compare agricultural price levels between EU Member States and to study sales channels. Quarterly and annual price indices for agricultural products and the means of agricultural production, on the other hand, are used principally to analyse price developments and their effect on agricultural income. Selling prices are recorded at the first marketing stage (excluding transport). Agricultural price indices are obtained by a base-weighted Laspeyres calculation (2010 = 100), and are expressed in nominal terms or as deflated indices based on the use of an implicit consumer prices (HICP) deflator.
COMEXT database on EU trade
COMEXT is the Eurostat reference database for international trade. It provides access not only to both recent and historical data from the EU Member States but also to statistics of a significant number of third countries. International trade aggregated and detailed statistics disseminated from Eurostat website are compiled from COMEXT data according to a monthly process. Because COMEXT is updated on a daily basis, data published on the website may differ from data stored in COMEXT in case of recent revisions. EU data are compiled according to community guidelines and may, therefore, differ from national data published by Member States. Statistics on extra-EU trade are calculated as the sum of trade of each of the 28 Member States with countries outside the EU. In other words, the EU is considered as a single trading entity and trade flows are measured into and out of the area, but not within it. The importance of the EU’s internal market is underlined by the fact that the proportion of intra-EU trade in goods is higher than extra-EU trade in goods in most EU Member States with few exceptions. The variation in the proportion of total trade in goods accounted for by intra-EU trade reflects to some degree historical ties and geographical location.
PRODCOM, database on the production of manufactured goods
PRODCOM is the European Union (EU) survey providing statistics on the production of manufactured goods. The Prodcom survey covers the mining, quarrying and manufacturing sectors, in other words, NACE Rev. 2 Sections B and C. Prodcom statistics are based on a list of products called the Prodcom list which consists of more than 3 800 headings, and which is revised every year. In the list, products are detailed at an 8-digit level — only information at this detailed level can be found in the Prodcom database, as production data for different products cannot always be meaningfully aggregated. The purpose of Prodcom statistics is to report, for each product in the Prodcom list, how much production has been sold during the reference period. This means that Prodcom statistics relate to products (not to activities) and are therefore not strictly comparable with activity-based statistics such as structural business statistics. Sometimes the data for some products cannot be reported, for instance if an enterprise cannot report the volume in the required measurement unit. In these cases, either the national statistical office or Eurostat makes estimates so that complete EU totals can be published. In some cases the national statistical authority requests that the data for a particular product be kept confidential. This can happen, for instance, if there is only one producer in the country so that the published data refers directly to that producer. Eurostat is legally bound to respect such confidentiality, but may use the confidential amount in EU totals, as long as it is not revealed by doing so. If this is not possible, the EU total is rounded so that an approximate figure can be given without revealing the confidential data. The rounding base is also shown in order to indicate the range of possible true values of the total.
This article describes the potato sector in the European Union. The overall aim is to offer readers a statistical overview on a single commodity, vertically linking all the steps from the field to the market. The food chain approach is indeed one of the key issues within the EU Commission both for its socio-economic importance and for the extensive legislative EU framework, which is one of the most EU-level harmonised (e.g. General Food law Regulation (EC) No 178/2002). In addition, it is of great relevance also within international organisations, such as, among others, OECD - see the OECD Meeting of Agricultural Ministers held in Paris on 7-8 April 2016 and FAO.
- Crops products: areas and production (ESMS metadata file — apro_acs_esms)
- Farm structure survey (ESMS metadata file — ef_esms)
- Absolute agricultural prices (ESMS metadata file — apri_ap_esms)
- Economic Accounts for Agriculture (ESMS metadata file — aact_esms)
- Price indices of agricultural products (ESMS metadata file — apri_pi_esms)
- International trade data (ESMS metadata file — ext_go_agg_esms)
- Prodcom - Statistics on the production of manufactured goods (Publication - Prodcom User Guide)
- Statistics on the production of manufactured goods (ESMS metadata file — prom_esms)
- The relatively high share for the Netherlands might, at least in part, be explained by the considerable amount of goods that flow into and out of the EU through Rotterdam, which is the EU’s leading sea port (the so –called Rotterdam-effect see also: International trade statistics - background