The food and drink industry is the EU's biggest manufacturing sector in terms of jobs and value added. It’s also an asset in trade with non-EU countries. The EU boasts an important trade surplus in trade in food and EU food specialities are well appreciated overseas. In the last 10 years, EU food and drink exports have doubled, reaching over EUR 90 Billion and contributing to a positive balance of almost EUR 30 Billion.
EU food legislation is highly harmonised and the sector benefits significantly from the opportunities offered by the EU Single Market. At the same time, however, the sector faces certain challenges in both international and European markets.
The European Commission is working to improve the competitiveness of the EU food sector and the functioning of the Single Market for Food. It also strives to create new trade opportunities for food and drink products, through various trade negotiations and dialogues with third countries.
The EU food and drink industry is generally competitive on a global scale and produces high quality, healthy and safe food. Still, in recent years, the sector is facing a decrease in its relative competitiveness compared to other world food producers, mostly in terms of slower growth in labour productivity and added value. Certain problems have been observed in the functioning of the EU food supply chain linked to transparency, sub-optimal business-to-business relationships, a lack of attractiveness for skilled workers and low market integration across EU countries.
The European Commission:
A major EU-wide initiative, supporting EU food competitiveness is the High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain. The Forum is an EU-wide platform, involving all actors along the chain, to discuss the main issues affecting the EU Food Sector from competitiveness to innovation, sustainability, creating value and fostering better trading relations.
The Commission manages the trade regime for processed agricultural products (PAPs) and works to improve the framework conditions for trade in PAPS by encouraging tariff dismantling and trade-friendly rules of origin, the standardisation of rules and the mutual recognition of food legislation with non-EU countries.
The Commission funds several studies to help formulate policies that encourage the competitiveness of the food and drink industry in the EU.
More on Competitiveness studies
DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs is responsible for all legislation governing the trade regime for processed agricultural products.
The Commission is working in the area of knowledge transfer, food innovation and research in the food area.