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Agriculture and rural development
News article6 October 2023BrusselsDirectorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development

Competitive EU agri-food sector achieves high level of diversification in trade

EU agri-food trade

The EU’s high level of trade diversification, showcased in a European Commission report published today, supports a competitive and resilient EU agri-food sector. Trading key commodities, such as food, with a wide array of partners minimises supply chain risks and vulnerabilities. In the case of agrifood products, it strengthens resilience by not creating unnecessary dependencies on certain imports, and by ensuring a steady flow of exports. The analysis shows that the EU’s total agri-food trade is well diversified, with numerous trade partners, while some dependency remains on certain commodities. Overall, the EU position as the world’s top exporter and one of the top importers of agri-food products allows for balanced and favourable trade relations with third countries. 

The recent Communication entitled “towards a more resilient, competitive and sustainable Europe” recalled that the Commission had put forward two packages of financial support and crisis
measures to support EU farmers and improve the resilience of EU food systems, including the
activation of the European Food Security Crisis preparedness and response Mechanism (EFSCM). In line with its commitment to closely monitor agri-food markets and trade flows, and to map risks and vulnerabilities of the EU supply chain, the European Commission assessed the level of diversification of EU agri-food exports and imports from 2012 to 2022. In this decade, there has been a slight trend towards increased diversification of both exports and imports. The study also looks into the state of play of the EU agri-food trade with five of its main trading partners.

EU agri-food exports

The EU shows a similar level of diversification for its overall exports than other major exporters, such as the US or China. EU exports are well diversified across trade partners for most agri-food categories. However, a large share of EU agri-food exports (21% in 2022, in value) goes to the UK.

Certain products show a lower level of diversification. For example, the US market absorbs 28% of EU wine’s export while 25% of the EU’s total pigmeat exports go to China.

Shares of the top 10 destinations in EU total agri-food exports between 2012 and 2022
United Kingdom24.4%24.4%24.5%24.9%24.3%24.1%24.5%22.8%22.7%21.2%20.9%
United States9.4%9.0%9.5%10.7%11.4%11.6%11.7%12.0%11.6%12.4%12.6%
Russian federation8.1%8.0%6.0%3.5%3.4%3.8%3.8%3.9%3.7%3.7%3.1%
Saudi Arabia2.2%2.5%2.3%2.9%2.7%2.3%2.2%2.0%2.3%1.8%2.1%
Hong Kong2.7%2.9%2.7%2.5%2.0%2.1%1.9%1.5%1.4%1.1%0.8%
Rest of the World36.3%36.2%37.8%37.1%36.7%36.6%36.7%36.8%35.3%37.7%40.4%

Source: DG AGRI, own calculation based on COMEXT

Agri-food imports into the EU

EU imports show higher overall diversification than the other major importers. Some countries such as the UK, Canada, or Mexico, for which trade is highly oriented towards one major trade partner, come out with high trade concentration indices.

However, the EU have higher levels of concentration in certain product categories. For oilseeds and protein crops, the most imported category by the EU, Brazil, Argentina, and Ukraine represented respectively 32%, 15% and 14% of EU imports in 2022. The EU is also not self-sufficient for these commodities and imports play an important role to match EU consumption. There was a similar situation for coffee with 34% of EU imports coming from Brazil, and cocoa with Côte d’Ivoire supplying 47% of EU cocoa imports.

EU cereals imports were moderately concentrated in 2022. Ukraine and Brazil represented 36% and 18% of EU cereals imports, especially in maize. However, the EU remains a net exporter of cereals overall and will continue producing more than it consumes in the season 2022-23.

EU imports of dairy products, pigmeat, sheep and goat, beverages, spirits and liqueurs and olives and olive oil are the most concentrated, but the EU is self-sufficient for most of these products and they do not represent the largest imports in value. Therefore, these high concentration levels do not represent a particularly large strategic risk.

Shares of the top 10 origins in EU total agri-food imports between 2012 and 2022
United Kingdom13.7%13.9%13.8%13.5%13.6%13.5%13.9%13.8%12.9%9.1%8.9%
United States6.8%8.2%8.4%8.8%8.3%7.8%8.7%8.4%7.9%7.1%7.1%
Côte d'Ivoire1.9%1.9%2.2%2.7%3.0%2.7%2.6%2.7%2.7%2.5%2.0%
Rest of the World41.3%40.8%40.6%41.2%42.4%42.9%42.4%42.2%43.4%45.2%42.6%

Source: DG AGRI, own calculation based on COMEXT

Main EU agri-food trading partners

The report analyses key trade figures with five major agri-food trading partners for the EU: the UK, the US, China, Brazil, and Ukraine. EU agri-food trade balance was positive with these countries (€27 billion) and reached in total with all partners €58 billion in 2022.

The UK is the top agri-food trade partner of the EU, covering 9% of EU imports and 21% of exports in 2022. The EU trade balance with the UK reached +€32.6 billion in 2022.  The US is the second trade partner of the EU, representing 7% of EU imports and 13% of exports in 2022. The EU trade balance with the US was positive (+€16.7 billion) in 2022. China is the third trade partner of the EU, representing 6% of EU imports and 7% of exports in 2022. The trade balance with China is positive and reached €6 billion in 2022. Brazil is the first source of EU agri-food imports (12% in 2022) and represents 1% of EU exports. The trade balance with Brazil is negative and reached € -17.8 billion in 2022. Ukraine is the third source of EU agri-food imports (8% in 2022) and represents 1.2% of EU exports. The trade balance with Ukraine is negative and reached EUR -10.3 billion in 2022.

Detailed figures and tables are available in the analysis on the diversification of EU agri-food trade.

11 OCTOBER 2023
Monitoring agri-trade policy: Thematic analysis – Diversification of EU agri-food trade
(615.08 KB - PDF)

Related links

Agri-food trade and international policy analysis


Publication date
6 October 2023
Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development