Report: Slight increase in EU agri-food trade despite Brexit and Covid

Continued strong exports of EU pork and wheat helped to mitigate the trade challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit in the first five months of 2020, according to the latest agri-food trade report from the European Commission (EC).

The Monitoring European Agri-food Trade: Developments January – May 2020 report states that as a result of these challenges, the monthly values of EU27 member states’ exports and imports in May 2020 decreased by 7.5% and 4.5% respectively, below the level of the previous month.

However, between January and May 2020, the total value of EU27 agri-food exports rose by 2% compared to the same period in 2019, reaching €75.8 billion.

The value of imports increased to €52.7 billion representing a rise of nearly 1%.

Image source: European Commission

The EU enjoyed an agri-food trade surplus of €23.1 billion during this period, an increase of 5% compared to the corresponding months of 2019.

The growth of EU exports was driven by exceptionally high sales of pigmeat to China and of cereals to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The value of EU exports to China rose by €1.93 billion during this period.

Popular agri-food exports

In addition to pigmeat, the other EU agri-food products in high demand from China were wheat, offal meat and infant food.

Strong demand for EU barley and wheat lead to increases in exports to the MENA region, most notably to Saudi Arabia, where the value of exports grew by €464 million, as well as Morocco (up by €326 million) and Algeria (up €313 million).

The total value of EU agri-food exports to the UK fell by €899 million.

Wine, spirits and liqueurs, cigars and cigarettes, fruit and vegetable preparations, cheese and chocolate and confectionary were among the main product categories affected during these months.

Meanwhile, imports from the UK fell by €807 million. The product categories most affected were spirits and liqueurs, chocolate and confectionary, pasta and pastry.

Exports and imports to US

Declines were also noted in the value of the EU’s imports from the US – a reduction of €416 million, due largely to a drop in the EU’s intake of US soya beans.

Significant falls were also recorded in EU export values to the US – a drop of €405 million, as the US reduced its intake of spirits and liqueurs, wine, fruit juices, pig meat and tropical fruit.

Further falls were recorded for EU exports to Hong Kong, Singapore and Lebanon, while imports decreased from India and Ukraine.

There was a significant increase in the EU’s imports of palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as high imports of rapeseeds and soya beans from Canada.

In terms of product categories, demand from China propelled notable increases in EU exports of wheat (up by €1.49 billion) and pigmeat (up €1.4 billion), while the value of coarse grains also experienced a rise (totalling €465 million).