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Extra-EU trade in agricultural goods


Data extracted in September 2020.

Planned update: March 2021.

Highlights

In 2019, extra-EU trade in agricultural products accounted for 8 % of the total extra EU-27 international trade in goods.

Between 2002 and 2019, EU trade in agricultural products more than doubled, equivalent to an average annual growth of 5 %.

In 2019, the United Kingdom was both the EU's largest export destination for agricultural products and the largest origin of EU imports.

EU-27 trade of agricultural products, 2002-2019

This article analyses data on trade in agricultural products, concentrating on exports and imports between the European Union (EU) and all countries outside the EU (extra-EU). In 2019, extra-EU trade in agricultural products accounted for 8.0 % of the total extra EU-27 international trade in goods. This was almost equal to the 7.8 % it was in 2018. Data on trade in agricultural products is central for two important EU policies: the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the common trade policy, which manages trade relations with non-EU countries.

This article is part of an online publication providing recent statistics on international trade in goods, covering information on the EU's main partners, main products traded, specific characteristics of trade as well as background information.


Full article

EU trade in agricultural products: surplus of €39 billion

In 2002, the EU-27 share of agricultural products in total trade was 7.3 %, rising to 8.0 % in 2019 (see Figure 1). From 2002 to 2004, the share was roughly equal for exports and imports but since 2005 the share for exports is higher than for imports. This difference was largest in 2006 and 2019, although still only slightly more than 1 percentage point.

Figure 1: EU-27 share of agricultural products in total trade, 2002-2019
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-016894)


In 2019, the value of total trade (imports plus exports) of agricultural goods between the EU-27 and the rest of the world was €325 billion (see Figure 2). Since exports (€182 billion) were higher than imports (€143 billion) there was a trade surplus of €39 billion. Between 2002 and 2019, EU trade in agricultural products more than doubled, equivalent to an average annual growth of 5.0 %. In this period, exports (5.5 %) grew faster than imports (4.4 %).

Figure 2: EU-27 trade of agricultural products, 2002-2019 (€ billion)
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-016894)

The EU-27 imported 153 million tonnes of agricultural products in 2019, while it exported 134 million tonnes million tonnes (see Figure 3). Between 2002 and 2019, the total trade volume had an average annual growth rate of 2.5 %. Here too, exports (3.4 %) grew faster than imports (1.7 %). The average annual increase in prices for imports (2.6 %) was higher than for exports (2.0 %).

Figure 3: Value, weight and average price of EU-27 trade in agricultural products, 2002-2019
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-016894)

Agricultural products: 3 main groups

Agricultural products can be subdivided into three main groups: animal products, vegetable products and foodstuffs (see Figure 4). In exports, the largest group was foodstuffs (54 %) followed by vegetable products and animal products (both 23 %). In imports, the largest group was vegetable products (44 %) followed by foodstuffs (34 %) and animal products (22 %).

Figure 4: EU-27 trade of agricultural products by product category, 2019
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-016894)

Each of the categories discussed above can be subdivided into chapters (see Figure 5).

The animal products category consists of five chapters. In exports of animal products, the largest chapters were 'meat and edible meat offal' (38 %, €15 billion) and 'dairy produce; birds' eggs; natural honey; edible products of animal origin, not elsewhere specified or included' (37 %, €15 billion). In imports of animal products, the largest chapter was 'fish and crustaceans, molluscs and other aquatic invertebrates' (69 %, €23 billion)

There are ten chapters in the vegetable products category. In exports of vegetable products, the largest chapter was 'animal or vegetable fats and oils and their cleavage products; prepared edible fats; animal or vegetable waxes' (17 %, €7 billion). In imports of vegetable products, the largest chapter was 'edible fruit and nuts; peel of citrus fruits or melons' (30 %, €20 billion)

Foodstuffs consist of various types of processed foods. The largest chapter in export of foodstuffs was 'beverages, spirits and vinegar' (33 %, €34 billion). In imports of foodstuffs, the largest chapter was 'residues and waste from the food industries; prepared animal fodder' (21 %, €11 billion)

Figure 5: EU-27 exports and imports of agricultural products by product category, 2019
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-016894)

Agricultural products - developments between 2012 and 2019

In 2019, the value of total trade (imports plus exports) of animal products between the EU-27 and the rest of the world was €72 billion (see Figure 6). Since exports (€42 billion) were higher than imports (€31 billion) there was a trade surplus of €11 billion. Between 2002 and 2019, EU trade in animal products more than doubled, equivalent to an average annual growth of 4.9 %. In this period, exports (5.7 %) grew faster than imports (4.0 %).

Figure 6: EU-27 trade of animal products, 2002-2019 (€ billion)
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-016894)

In 2019, the value of total trade (imports plus exports) of vegetable products between the EU-27 and the rest of the world was €105 billion (see Figure 7). Since exports (€42 billion) were lower than imports (€64 billion) there was trade deficit of €22 billion. Between 2002 and 2019, EU trade in vegetable products more than doubled, equivalent to an average annual growth of 5.1 %. In this period, imports (5.3 %) grew faster than exports (4.8 %).

Figure 7: EU-27 trade of vegetable products, 2002-2019 (€ billion)
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-016894)

In 2019, the value of total trade (imports plus exports) of foodstuffs between the EU-27 and the rest of the world was €147 billion (see Figure 8). Since exports (€99 billion) were higher than imports (€49 billion) there was a trade surplus of €50 billion. Between 2002 and 2019, EU trade in foodstuffs more than doubled, equivalent to an average annual growth of 5.0 %. In this period, exports (5.8 %) grew faster than imports (3.6 %).

Figure 8: EU-27 trade of foodstuffs, 2002-2019 (€ billion)
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-016894)

Main trading partners for agricultural products

In 2019, the United Kingdom (see methodology section below) was both the EU's largest export destination (€42 177 million, 23 %) and the largest origin of EU imports (€18 258 million, 13 %) of agricultural products (see Figure 9).

Figure 9: EU-27 exports and imports of agricultural products by main partner, 2019
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-016894)

In 2019, the United Kingdom (€9 629 million, 23 %) was the EU's largest export destination for animal products, while Norway (€6 624 million, 22 %) was the largest origin of EU imports, mainly due to imports of fish products (see Figure 10).

Figure 10: EU-27 exports and imports of animal products by main partner, 2019
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-016894)

In 2019, the United Kingdom (€9 555 million, 23 %) was the EU's largest export destination for vegetable products, while the United States (€6 389 million, 10 %) was the largest origin of EU imports (see Figure 11).

Figure 11: EU-27 exports and imports of vegetable products by main partner, 2019
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-016894)

In 2019, the United Kingdom was both the EU's largest export destination (€22 992 million, 23 %) and the largest import origin (€9 903 million, 20 %) of foodstuffs (see Figure 12).

Figure 12: EU-27 exports and imports of foodstuffs by main partner, 2019
Source: Eurostat (Comext data code: DS-016894)


Source data for tables and graphs

Excel.jpg Extra-EU trade in agricultural goods Excel file

Data sources

EU data comes from Eurostat’s COMEXT database. COMEXT is the Eurostat reference database for international trade in goods. It provides access not only to both recent and historical data from the EU Member States but also to statistics of a significant number of non-EU countries. International trade aggregated and detailed statistics disseminated from Eurostat website are compiled from COMEXT data according to a monthly process. Because COMEXT is updated on a daily basis, data published on the website may differ from data stored in COMEXT in case of recent revisions.

In this article, agricultural products are classified according to the sub-headings of the Combined Nomenclature (CN), based on the international classification known as the Harmonized commodity description and coding system (HS) administered by the World Customs Organization. The 24 chapters (2-digit codes) of agricultural products in the CN nomenclature are grouped into 3 major types: animal, vegetable and foodstuff products. Chapter 15 (animal or vegetable fats and oils and their cleavage products; prepared edible fats; animal or vegetable waxes) is included in vegetables.

EU data are compiled according to community guidelines and may, therefore, differ from national data published by Member States. Statistics on extra-EU trade are calculated as the sum of trade of each of the 27 Member States with countries outside the EU. In other words, the EU is considered as a single trading entity and trade flows are measured into and out of the area, but not within it.

The EU-27 data reflect the political change in the EU composition. Therefore the United Kingdom is considered as an extra-EU partner country for the EU-27. However, the United Kingdom is still part of the internal market until the end of the transitory period, meaning that data on trade with the United Kingdom are still based on statistical concepts applicable to trade between the EU Member States. As a consequence, while imports from any other extra-EU-27 trade partner are grouped by country of origin, the United Kingdom data reflect country of consignment. In practice this means that the goods imported by the EU-27 from the United Kingdom were physically transported from the United Kingdom but part of these goods could have been of other origin than the United Kingdom. For this reason data on trade with the United Kingdom are not fully comparable with data on trade with other extra-EU-27 trade partners.

Classifications

In international trade statistics, several classifications are used. Apart from the harmonised commodity description and coding system (HS), managed by the World Customs Organization, data on trade is also available in the United Nations’ Standard International Trade Classification (SITC revision 4) and in the Broad Economic Categories (BEC) classification, the latter using end–use categories more adapted to economic analysis.

Unit of measure

Trade values are expressed in millions (106) or in billions (109) of euros. They correspond to the statistical value, i.e. to the amount which would be invoiced in case of sale or purchase at the national border of the reporting country. It is called a FOB value (free on board) for exports and a CIF value (cost, insurance, freight) for imports.


Context

The European Union (EU) is the largest partner in international trade of agricultural products. While the EU-27 imports mostly simple unprocessed agricultural goods, exports from the European Union are principally processed food products.

Data on international trade in agriculture products is used for two of the common EU policies: the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the common trade policy which manages trade relations with non-EU countries. These are major policy areas of the European Union on which decisions are taken at Community level.

Statistics on international trade in agricultural commodities are fundamental in the evaluation and understanding of problems related to several political agendas, such as trade negotiations, food security, cooperation and aid towards developing countries and global sustainability.

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