The fruit and veg that clock up the most miles when they’re imported to the UK
We’re all guilty of buying our favourite fruits and veggies out of season, but what impact does this have on the environment?
Many out of season products have travelled thousands of miles to arrive on your plate, which contributes heavily to their carbon footprint.
And with the UK consuming more fruit and veg as more people take up clean eating diets like vegetarianism and veganism, the issue is more important than ever.
So which fruit and veg items clock up the most miles when they’re imported to the UK, and which countries do we source the most fresh produce from?
The Fruit & Veg Products with the Most Food Miles
We looked at a selection of 50 fresh fruit and veg products to see which clocked up the most miles when being imported to the UK, taking into account the amount that we import from each country too.
- Asparagus – 5,052 miles
The asparagus season here in the UK is only a few weeks, and when we bring it in from abroad, it travels more miles than any of the other produce that we looked at. The majority (53%) of the UK’s imported asparagus comes from Peru, which is over 6,000 miles away, with a further 32% coming from the USA. While some of our asparagus comes from closer to home, such as from the Republic of Ireland and Belgium, this only accounts for a small portion of the country’s imported supply.
- Pineapples – 4,933 miles
Grown in tropical, sunny climates, the average pineapple travels just under 5,000 miles before arriving here in the UK. Most of our pineapples arrive from over 5,200 miles away, with Costa Rica sending over 92 million kilos to the UK in a year.
- Bananas – 4,901 mile
Another fruit which thrives in hotter climates is the banana, which on average has to travel around 4,900 miles to arrive in the UK, doing so from 41 different countries such as Colombia (5,213 miles), Costa Rica (5,285 miles) and the Dominican Republic (4,250 miles).
The Countries which Export the Most Fruit & Veg to the UK
Looking at where the nation sources its out of season fruit and veg, we see that as many as 139 different countries supply the UK with various produce throughout the year, from every corner of the globe.
- Spain – 1.17 billion kg
The country which supplies the UK with more fruit and veg than any other was Spain, with over a billion kilos, which equals about a fifth of the country’s fruit and veg. This includes 91.7 million kilos of cabbage lettuce, 77 million kilos of cauliflower and broccoli and 74.8 million kilos of peppers.
- Netherlands – 637 million kg
In second place is the Netherlands, which produces 40% of the UK’s imported tomatoes. Other items which commonly make their way from the Netherlands to the UK include peppers, cucumbers and gherkins and onions and shallots.
- South Africa – 375 million kg
While the top two countries which supply the UK with the most fresh produce are fairly close to home, the nation in third place is a little more surprising. South Africa is over 6,000 miles away from the UK, yet accounts for 6.8% of its imported fruit and veg, including apples, grapes and oranges.
All data on the number of imports was sourced from UK Trade Info’s overseas trade data table. Note that we’ve simplified some of the official categorisations of certain products for clarity.
Distances between nations were sourced using DistanceFromTo and the average miles travelled by each type of produce were calculated using a weighted average, taking into account the amount of each item that each country supplies.