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Vineyards become the fastest growing crop in England

Published:  11 October, 2023

Wine grapes are the fastest-growing edible agricultural crop sector for human consumption in England, it has been confirmed, with recent statistics from Defra putting the growth of vineyard hectarage in pole position.

The recent figures show that grapes now represent 36% of England’s soft fruit crop, putting it ahead of strawberries and blackcurrants in second place (21% each) and raspberries (10%).

It is the fastest growing crop for human consumption, too. England’s vineyards saw a sector growth rate of +21% in the year to 1 June, making it the fastest growing of all horticultural and arable crops. Though, technically it falls behind legumes used in cattle fodder, when it comes to crops consumed by people, wine is seeing the fastest growth rates and leaping ahead of the likes of mixed corn (+16%) and other small fruit, including gooseberries and blackberries (+18%).

This figure is also set to grow further. UK industry body WineGB reports a 74% growth in vine plantings in just five years to 4,300ha. This trajectory is set to continue as plantings are expected to reach 7,600ha by 2032, yielding a potential 24.7mn bottles.

“It is often said to be exciting times in British wine and right now is no exception,” Ned Awty, interim CEO of industry body WineGB, said.

“The UK is one of the fastest-growing wine regions in the world with an exciting future ahead. With increased investment, increased global awareness and an exciting portfolio of sparkling and still wines, this is an excellent time to be seeking out your nearest vineyard to see what they have to offer.”

According to Defra, the total croppable area in England saw little change between 2022 and 2023, remaining stable at just under 4.9mha.

Vineyards account for a small percentage of this, as they share their total volume of land with other horticultural crops such as nuts, fruits, vegetables and flowers, arable crops, such as cereals, oilseeds and potatoes, as well as uncropped arable land and temporary grassland. 

As hectarage grows, however, WineGB is setting out on what it calls ‘an ambitious long-term sustainability programme’ to measure and reduce the industry’s carbon footprint and enhance biodiversity.

Wine tourism and local buying habits play an important role in this picture, Wine GB added. As vineyards increasingly offer tours and tastings, the industry’s impact on the landscape, local economies and rural employment is set to grow.

“As having local vineyards normalises in the national psyche, so does popping in to try wines or buy a bottle,” Awty added.   

“Consumers are demanding more locally produced, environmentally friendly products, something that English and Welsh wines are in a unique position to deliver.”