BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — With agri-food trade reaching a value of €255 billion in 2017, the E.U. said it is the largest global exporter and importer of agri-food products.

The value of E.U. agri-food exports was €138 billion, a 5.1% increase from last year, while imports totaled €117 billion, according to the 2017 annual agri-food trade report published on June 7.

The entire output of the E.U.’s agricultural sector is estimated at €427 billion in 2017. The food processing chain accounts for 7.5% of employment and 3.7% of total value added in the E.U. The share of exports in the production value chain is continuously increasing and as such, exports are a driver for jobs and growth for the European agri-food sector.

“The success of agricultural trade is clearly linked to reforms of the CAP that allow E.U. producers to be competitive on international markets,” said Phil Hogan, commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. “Our ambitious trade agenda — with recent successes in negotiations with Canada, Japan and Mexico — helps E.U. farmers and food producers make full use of the opportunities of international markets while recognizing the need to provide sufficient safeguards for more sensitive sectors.”

Phil Hogan European agriculture and rural development commissioner
Phil Hogan, commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.
Photo courtesy of E.U. Commission.
Among the top export product categories, wheat saw the most remarkable change, dropping from fifth to 11th place in export value. The drop of 27.5%, or €1.5 billion, was attributed to lower E.U. production and ample supply on the world market. Importers, such as Egypt, sourced from other destinations.

“A slightly higher unit price could not counterbalance this sharp drop in volumes,” the report said. “In other case, such as pork and to some extent cereals other than wheat and rice, losses in value were moderated by the fact that the decrease in exported volumes was counteracted by higher unit prices.”

E.U. exports to all five main partners increased, including the United States, China, Switzerland, Russia and Japan.

Regarding imports, the E.U. has been able to diversify its sourcing over the last years with the share of the two main origin countries (Brazil and the U.S.) decreasing in favor of other suppliers.

Compared to the previous year, palm and palm kernel oil increased to the fourth most important agri-food import product, passing fresh and dried fruits.

Soybeans dropped in imports shares and import value from 5% in 2016 to 4% in 2017 and oilcakes dropped from 7% to 6%.