Agri-food exports from the EU increased by 9% year-on-year in May, with milk powder and infant food among the biggest growth areas, according to the European Commission (EC).

The total value of food exports was €11.5 billion for the month of May as shipments to the US, China and Japan alone showed impressive growth of €122 million, €105 million and €88 million, respectively.

According to the figures published on Monday, July 24, imports into the EU were up 13% – or €1.2 billion – for the year, with the bloc maintaining a trade surplus of €675 million in May.

For the 12-month period, total EU agri-food exports were worth €131.8 billion – with shipments of pig meat, wine and infant food up 17%, 7% and 12%, respectively.

However, exports that experienced the biggest drop on an annual basis were: cereals; eggs and honey; and wool and silk – which were all down 30%, 13% and 17%, respectively.

The top destinations for European agri-food exports were the US, China, Switzerland, Japan and Russia, while most imports arrived from Brazil, the US, Argentina, China and Indonesia.

The report from the EC singled out the recent trade deal with Japan as “the most successful agreement ever achieved in agriculture, providing EU exporters better opportunities”.

“It represents the biggest concession Japan has ever granted on agriculture to any trade partner, meaning that the EU is likely to become the most significant partner for Japan for agri-trade,” the report said.

While the EU mostly exports pork meat, wine and cheese to Japan, the bloc’s main imports from the country are soups and sauces, fatty acids and waxes.

Figures from the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) recently suggested the tariff-free trade deal would initially boost Irish beef exports to Japan by about 20,000t per year.