As one of the world’s largest cereals producer and trader, the EU supports its farmers with income support, market intervention and trade policy through the common agricultural policy (CAP). The support has moved away from being based on what or how much is being produced to be fully decoupled (when payments are no longer linked to the amount produced).
The different arable crops are now integrated in one single common market organisation and EU policy is limited to two key areas:
- intervention of the European Commission and aid for private storage
Originally introduced to protect farmers from low market prices, buying stock of cereals and rice to put in public storage is now only used in case of emergency, providing a safety net to farmers.
- trade measures
About 20% of the EU’s wheat crop is exported annually, as oilseeds, animal feedstuff and rice are imported in large quantities. For these sectors, imports and exports licences can be required, as well as payments of a trade tariff. Nonetheless, due to the EU’s commitments under the World Trade Organisation, a number of fixed tariff import quotas are in place at a lower or zero duty.
More than half of cereals grown in the EU are wheat. The remaining 50% is composed of maize and barley, each representing about one third. The last third includes cereals grown in smaller quantities such as rye, oats and spelt.
The EU’s cereals are mostly used for animal feed (nearly two thirds); one third is directed at human consumption, while only 3% is used for biofuels.
Oilseeds and protein crops
The major EU oilseed is rapeseed (59%), followed by sunflower seed and soya beans. No specific support measures exist for oilseeds, where two thirds of what is consumed in Europe each year is produced in the EU. Still, EU imports represent about half of the oilseed used in animal feed annually, where import tariffs are set at zero.
Oilseeds are used for food, feed, fuel and industrial purposes. Crushing the oilseeds provides vegetables oils and meal. Vegetable oil is generally used in the food industry or to produce biodiesel, while oilseed meals are an important component of animal feed.
The main protein crops grown in the EU are field peas, broad and field beans and lupines. Since 2012, there is no specific support for protein crops, and import tariffs are set at zero.
Around two-thirds of rice consumed by Europeans is grown in the EU. The rest is complemented by imports of different varieties, from India or Cambodia for example. A small quantity of EU rice is exported.
Legal basis on the cereals, oilseeds and protein crops, and rice market sectors include legislation on the common market organisation for agricultural products, intervention and trade for cereals and rice, and horizontal trade.
The EU crops market observatory provides a diversity of data and information on the cereal, oilseed and protein crops sectors. It follows and analyses past and present trends at a global and European level, production, the balance between supply and demand, production costs, market perspectives, and other factors.
The agri-food data portal provides market data on national and EU agriculture such as process, production, trade, and tariff rate quotas.
Rice and ethyl alcohol
Further information is available on the overview of EU rice, import and export licences and ethyl alcohol balance sheets.
Studies have been undertaken by and for the European Commission on specialist areas of interest relevant to cereals, oilseeds, protein crops and rice.
A study financed by the Commission on market developments and policy evaluation aspects of the plant protein sector in the EU was presented in November 2018.
In November 2017, a study on storage capacities and logistical infrastructure for EU agricultural commodities trade was produced on behalf of the Commission.
Various committees, composed of government representatives and chaired by a European Commission representative, meet regularly to ensure that the Commission's responsibility for adopting implementing acts is exercised under the control of EU countries.
The committee for common organisation of agricultural markets meets regularly to discuss areas such as the evolution of market prices, production and trade in the EU and non-EU countries.
The expert group on agricultural commodity derivatives and spot markets represent EU countries and European associations of various agricultural sectors whose objectives are to provide advice and expertise to the Commission services concerning:
- the functioning of the agricultural commodity derivatives and spot markets;
- the implementing of existing EU legislation and policies;
- the preparation of legislative proposals and policy initiatives in this field.