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Agriculture and rural development
News article23 March 2022Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development3 min read

The EU maintained its position of top trader in agri-food products in 2021

EU agri-food trade

The total value of EU agri-food trade reached a record €328.1 billion in 2021, a 7% increase year on year. This resulted in a trade surplus of €67.9 billion, representing an increase of 8% compared to 2020. High-value products such as wine, spirits and liqueurs, and chocolate and confectionery performed strongly, while products more directly related to farm income such as pigmeat, dairy products and wheat were affected by reductions in export values and performed less strongly. These findings were published today in the European Commission’s monthly trade report for the year 2021, which features a special focus on EU agri-food trade with Ukraine and Russia in the past year.

Agri-food products were primarily sent to the United Kingdom, United States and China in 2021, with these three countries accounting for 42% of all agri-food exports. Exports to the United States grew by over €3 billion or 14%, driven by strong performances from wine (up 29%) and spirits (up 19%), which represent one-third of all EU agri-food exports to the country. While exports to the UK fell sharply in the early part of the year due to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, they returned to normal levels from March and remained stable year on year.

Exports to China fell by €550 million or 3%, primarily due to a decline in exports of pigmeat (down 31%) and infant food (down 18%). Elsewhere, there were strong performances in exports to South Korea (up €910 million), Switzerland (up €815 million) and Norway (up €562 million).

2021 saw Brazil become the primary supplier of agri-food imports to the EU, with values growing by 19% to reach €13.5 billion. This was driven by imports of soya beans (up 50%), coffee (up 25%) and oilcakes (up 13%). Imports from the UK experienced a major decline, falling by €3.8 billion or 25% year on year. Imports from the US also declined, falling by €366 million or 4%. Elsewhere, notable increases were seen in imports from Indonesia (up €1.2 billion) and Ukraine (up €1 billion).

Wine, cereal-based products, and chocolate and confectionary had the highest export values and accounted for 18% of total EU agri-food exports. Wine exports increased by €3.2 billion, cereal based products by €714 million, and chocolate and confectionary by €948 million. While it remains the fourth highest value product, exports of pigmeat did fall by over €900 million, the largest decline of any product category in 2021.

The largest increases in import values were seen for soya beans (up €1.5 billion or 30%) and oilcakes (up €1.5 billion or 24%), with these two product categories representing 11% of all agri-food imports. This was driven by a sharp increase in commodity prices and an increase in energy costs. Notably, import quantities for soya beans and oilcakes decreased by 3% and 1%, illustrating a clear price effect in the rise of import values.

Russia's unprovoked military aggression against Ukraine is having a significant impact on agri-food trade in the EU and around the world. Ukraine exported almost €7 billion worth of agri-food products to the EU in 2021, making it the EU’s fourth largest agri-food trading partner. Ukraine accounts for 36% of imports of cereals to the EU, as well as 16% of imports of oilseed products. The EU also exported over €3 billion of agri-food products to Ukraine in 2021.

Ukraine’s arable crops sector performs strongly globally and accounts for 84% all agri-food exports from the country. As such, the continued disruption to supply chains has the potential to cause devastating long-term consequences for the Ukrainian economy.

Russia is also a strong agri-food trading partner, exporting €2.1 billion of agri-food products to the EU in 2021. Prior to the invasion of Ukraine, Russia accounted for 20% of all EU imports of feed ingredients. The most exported EU agri-food products to Russia are wine and spirits, which reached a value of €1.1 billion in 2021.

Graph – EU-27: Structure of agri-food trade with Extra-EU27, 2010-2021 (in million EUR)

More information

24 MARCH 2022
Monitoring EU agri-food trade: developments until December 2021

Related links

Agri-food trade with Ukraine

Trade and international policy analysis

Previous monthly data on EU agri-food imports and exports.