Which countries export more agricultural products?

EU: world power in agricultural and food trade

This article is part of the special report Agricultural Trade

For every 100 euros traded between the EU and other countries, seven euros go to the account of the food industry. EURACTIV cooperation partner EFEAgro reports.

Seven out of 100 euros. This number may seem small, compared to the trading operations of the automotive or energy industries. Yet the agriculture and food sector is vital to the EU economy and, more importantly, the economic well-being of millions of families.

According to Eurostat, the EU statistical office, exports of agricultural products and food to third countries amounted to 123.2 billion euros in 2015, excluding fish and fishery products. The imports were at 114.1 billion euros. In agriculture, the EU thus had a trade surplus of nine billion euros.

Official statistics suggest that intra-EU trade remains an important pillar of the European food industry. Nevertheless, the trend is more towards developing third country markets.

Javier Sierra, Director of Food and Gastronomy at the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX) told Efeagro that the EU continues to be the world's leading food exporter. The USA was overtaken in 2013. The reason for this is the continued support that the EU has given the sector in the form of funding measures and budget increases. Quite apart from that, a large part of the success is also based on the "rigorous" production standards and binding quality controls for producers in the EU. The consolidated trade relations with China, which is already the second most important export destination, should not be neglected.

Trade statistics

The EU's trade balance for agricultural products and food (excluding fish and fishery products) shows some interesting data, according to the International Trade Center (ITC). For example, the EU sells far more grain, flour, starch and dairy products than it imports. Of the already described trade surplus of nine billion euros, more than 8.5 billion can be traced back to milk, dairy products and eggs.

On the other side of the trade balance, the fruit and vegetable sector is running a deficit of 18.05 billion euros, followed by coffee and tea with a loss of around 8.07 billion euros. In these branches the EU is very dependent on the international market.

The surplus in cattle breeding, meat and offal (8.11 billion euros) and grain exports (4.06 billion euros) should also be emphasized. There is a deficit of $ 7.89 billion on seeds and oleaginous fruits (including soy).

Regardless of the trade balance, the highest amounts of money are moved through imports and exports (inside and outside the EU) in the following areas: meat, milk, dairy products, fruit, vegetables and grains. According to Eurostat, the import sums circulating within the EU in the fruit and vegetable sector are particularly eye-catching. Of the 64 billion euros in imports, 67 percent (42.88 billion dollars) come from transactions between the individual EU countries.

Meat and offal are also noticeable in this regard. EU countries exported products to the value of 38 billion euros here. 88 percent of it (33.44 billion) ended up within the block. 76 percent of the 42 billion euro trade in milk, dairy products, eggs and honey (31.92 billion) remained in the EU in 2015. Of the 22.6 billion euros in exported grain, staple food for humans and animals, 58 percent (13.1 billion) is accounted for by intra-community trade.

Continental trade flows

In 2015 the EU exported € 1.7 billion in milk, dairy products and eggs to America and grain worth € 4.4 billion to Africa. In both cases the EU had a significant trade surplus.

In Asia, the block mainly sold meat and offal for 5.4 billion euros with a surplus of more than five billion. In Oceania, however, the 336 million euros in meat exports left a deficit of 1.14 billion euros.

Total exports to individual EU countries

In 2015, Germany exported meat, milk, dairy products, eggs, fruit and vegetables to the value of 23.6 billion euros (to countries inside and outside the EU). Behind it was France with 13 billion euros, closely followed by Great Britain with 12.8 billion and Italy with ten billion. Spain's agricultural exports (including fish) amounted to a total of 44.1 billion euros in 2015, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Environment (Mapama).

This sum was made up as follows: offal and meat exports 3.91 billion euros with a positive trade balance, fruit and vegetables 13.6 billion euros also with a positive trade balance, grain and oil seeds 966 million euros with a clear deficit as well as milk, dairy products , Honey and eggs with more than 1.7 billion euros.

Above all, Spain must promote the “uniqueness” of its diverse and high-quality product range, emphasizes Sierra. In this way the country could consolidate its position on the international agricultural and food market. In this context, Spain relies on institutional collaborations and gastronomy tourism. Quality, high food safety standards and competitiveness should ensure that Spain and other EU countries will continue to be at the forefront of the global food market.