The European Union is one of the world's biggest cereals producers and an important cereals trader. Changes to the Common Agricultural Policy have gradually removed product-specific subsidies for cereals, oilseeds, protein crops and rice.
EU support for arable crops, which used to be provided through a complex system of market measures, has been simplified. Farmers no longer receive subsidies according to what or how much they produce; payments are fully decoupled. The direct payment system allows them to switch to different crops or types of production in response to market developments.
Since 2008 the different arable crops regimes have been integrated into the Single Common Market Organisation (CMO) and EU policy is limited to two main areas: intervention and trade measures.
Buying-in cereals and rice to public storage – known as "intervention" - was introduced to protect farmers from low market prices. Today, it is used only in cases of real necessity, providing an authentic safety-net for farmers.
About 20% of the EU's wheat crop is exported annually, while large quantities of oilseeds, animal feedstuffs and rice are imported.
Imports of rice are subject to the issuing of a standardised import licence and, in general, payment of a tariff. For some cereals tariffs are variable, for others tariffs are fixed. In addition - in accordance with the EU's commitments under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) - a number of fixed tariff import quotas are in place at a lower or zero duty.
Exports of rice to countries outside the EU are mostly subject to the issuing of an export licence.
In terms of quantity and area, wheat is by far the most popular cereal grown in the EU, making up nearly half the total. Of the remaining 50%, about one-third is maize and one-third barley. Other cereals grown in smaller quantities include triticale, rye, oats and spelt.
Nearly two-thirds of the EU's cereals are used for animal feed, with around one-third for human consumption. Only 3% is used for biofuels.
Oilseeds and protein crops
The EU no longer has any specific support measures for oilseeds. About two-thirds of the oilseeds consumed in the EU each year are produced in the EU but the EU imports about half the oilseed meals used annually in animal feed. Import tariffs for oilseeds are set at zero.
As of 2012, the EU no longer has any specific support measures for protein crops. Import tariffs for the main protein crops are set at zero.
Around two-thirds of the rice consumed by European citizens is grown in the EU. This is supplemented by imports of different varieties, mainly long-grain indica rice such as basmati from India and Pakistan. A small quantity of European rice – mainly japonica - is exported.
Crop-specific payments for rice have been abolished as from 2012.