Export has become a key factor for generating growth and jobs in agriculture and the food industry.
Fundamental reforms of the EU Common Agricultural Policy have progressively allowed the EU agri-food sector to improve market orientation, respond to new market opportunities and gain international competitiveness.
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.
In the second half of 2014 EU trade in agri-food was overshadowed by the import restrictions imposed on some products by the Russian Federation.
Nevertheless, EU exporters managed to diversify destinations and even slightly increase the overall value of agri-food exports.
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 €18 billion.
Currently, the top five destinations for EU28 agri-food exports are the US, 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 & Investment Partnership (TTIP), 2014 figures already confirm the growing importance and strengthened links with the US in agri-food trade. In 2014, sales to the US grew faster than to any other top five country (+7 %).
The second most important export destination is Russia, in spite of a dramatic drop in sales by -23 % due to the Russian import embargo for certain products (meats, dairy products, fruit & vegetables) in the second half of the year.
'Spirits and liqueurs' and 'wine, cider and vinegar' continue to dominate the basket of exported products, each of them representing 8 % of total EU28 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 confectionary as well as preparations of vegetables, fruits and nuts.
Concerning imports, the EU28 primarily augmented purchases on world markets of 'tropical fruits, nut and spices', 'coffee and tea', cocoa products (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 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) with a value (€3.0bn) notably higher than the combined figure for the US, China, Japan, Russia and Canada (€2.5bn).