Helped by Irish exports, Brussels has reported that the EU maintained its position as the world’s No 1 exporter in 2014, with agri-food exports representing more than 7% of all goods exported and with a net surplus of €18bn.
European Union trade in agri-food was overshadowed in the second half of last year by the import restrictions imposed on some products by the Russian Federation.
Yet, EU exporters managed to diversify destinations and even slightly increase the overall value of agri-food exports.
Brussels says that fundamental reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy have progressively allowed the EU agri-food sector to improve market orientation, respond to new market opportunities and gain international competitiveness.
Brussels notes that with export flagships of wines and spirits, dairy products, processed products, meats, olive oil and pasta, but also with commodities such as cereals and milk powders, the EU offers a diverse array of competitive products at all levels of the agricultural value chain.
Currently, the top five destinations for EU-28 agri-food exports are the United States, Russia, China, Switzerland and Japan.
The US is by far the most important partner destination, absorbing 13% of total exports.
While the EU and the US are still negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, figures confirm the growing importance and strengthening links with the US in agri-food trade. In 2014, sales to the US grew faster than to any other top five country by 7%.
The second most important export destination is Russia, in spite of a dramatic drop in sales dropped by 23% due to the import embargo for certain products, including meats, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, in the second half of 2014.
Categories such as spirits and liqueurs and wine, cider and vinegar continue to dominate the basket of exported products, each of them representing 8% of total EU-28 agri-food exports.
Highest gains were achieved for products which already represent a high share in agri-food exports: Infant food, milk powders and whey, wheat, chocolate and confectionery as well as preparations of vegetables, fruits and nuts.
Concerning imports, the EU-28 primarily augmented purchases on world markets of tropical fruits, nuts and spices, coffee and tea, cocoa products, including beans and paste and powders, and preparations of vegetables, — which in most cases were related to higher price levels than in the previous year.
European imports decreased strongest in sugar and several oilseed products. The EU remains the top importer of agri-food products from the so-called least developed countries, with a value of €3bn.
That’s notably higher than the combined figure for the US, China, Japan, Russia and Canada, of €2.5bn.
Irish food and drink exports continued to drive national economic recovery last year with a 4% growth to a record of almost €10.5bn.
Renewed growth in markets outside the EU was reflected in a 15% increase in trade to stand at €3bn, or 29%, of the total.
Strongest performers were dairy product-ingredients of €3bn, prepared foods of €1.8bn, and seafood of €540m.
Beef exports totalled €2.27bn. Some 237,000 live cattle valued €172m were also exported.
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