28.02.2018 |

EU agri-food exports and imports reach new record high

EU exports increased by 5.1% in 2017 (Photo: CC0)

In 2017, EU agri-food exports reached a new record high: The 28 countries exported €137.9bn worth of food, drinks and agricultural products. This is an increase of 5.1% in value terms compared to 2016, according to the latest monthly trade report published on February 20 by the European Commission. The main destination for EU agri-food exports is the US market. The United States bought goods worth €21.9bn in 2017, followed by China (€11.9bn), Switzerland (€8.2bn), Russia (€6.5bn) and Japan (€6.4bn). Sales to the US increased by 6% (or €1.22bn), while Russian exports rose by 16% (up €0.9bn). The top selling categories are wine, vermouth, cider and vinegar (€11.9bn), followed by spirits and liqueurs (€10.7bn) as well as infant food and other preparations of cereals, flour, starch or milk (€7.3bn). One of the main export goods is milk powder: The EU exported milk powder worth €4.4bn in 2017, an increase of 26% compared to the previous year. On the other hand, wheat and other cereals and pig meat exports decreased over the last 12 months in 2017.

EU agri-food imports also increased but at a slower pace than exports. Agri-food imports from third countries in 2017 accounted for EUR 117.4 billion. This is an increase of 4.5% compared to 2016 data. Nevertheless, driven by the stronger export performance over the 12-months period, the export surplus now stands at EUR 20.5 billion. This represents a growth of 9% over last year and the 8th consecutive year of agricultural trade surplus, the Commission said. Main origins for EU agri-food imports over the past 12 months were Brazil (€11.8 billion), the US (€11.0 billion) and Argentina (€5.7 billion). The two most important single product categories for imports into the EU were tropical fruit, fresh or dried, nuts and spices, being worth €13.7bn. as well as unroasted coffee and tee (€7.8bn). Other important import commodities were oilcakes (€7.3bn), palm and palm kernel oil (€6.5bn), soybeans (€4.1bn) and oilseeds other than soybeans (€4.1bn).

These are just the mere trade figures but the imports of agricultural commodities also comes along with the „virtual import“ of large areas of arable land in other parts of the world. A study, published in 2012 by the World Wide Fund For Nature, found that the agricultural commodities imported by the EU have occupied an area abroad of more than 30 million hectares since the start of the new millennium. Almost half of this land is occupied by soybeans and soy products. According to recent figures by the European Environment Agency (EEA), the EU's net imports of soybeans and soybean products for animal feed and oil production amounted to around 27 million tonnes in 2013. This means that Europe is heavily dependent on overseas land for its own livestock production, most of which is in South America. EEA calculates that soybean land use from EU imports in South America amounted to 8.8 million hectares in 2011, an area larger than Austria. Another 1.3 million hectares of land in the United States were used for soybean production to feed farm animals in the EU. (ab)

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Donors of globalagriculture Bread for all biovision Bread for the World Misereor Heidehof Stiftung Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz Rapunzel
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