US, Russia and Asia push EU agri-food exports to record high in 2017
The EU exported €137.9bn worth of food, drinks and agricultural products last year, a 5.1% increase on 2016, the latest figures from the European Commission show.
The data puts Ireladn's performance into perspective: at just under €13bn, Irish agri-food exports from one of the smallest of the EU's 28 member states are equivalent to one-tenth of European sales – although much of Ireland's exports are of course destined for other EU countries.
2017 saw both the highest value of agri-food exports in the history of the EU and the largest trade surplus. Imports grew too, led by feed ingredients, tropical fruit, and coffee, tea and cocoa, but more slowly than exports. This left a €20.5bn gap in favour of EU exporters (9% larger than in 2016).
The fastest-growing destinations for EU food and drink were the US (up €1.2bn, or 6%) and Russia (up €892m, or 16%). Asian markets including Japan, China, Hong Kong and South Korea also recorded strong growth.
Turkey and infant formula
Several markets and product categories are of particular interest to Ireland, such as Turkey, which saw a 14% rise in agricultural exports from the EU last year – growing numbers of live Irish cattle are included here.
Milk powders (+26%), infant food (+11%) and spirits and liqueurs (+5%), all key Irish exports, were among the best-performing categories.
While EU beef exports to third countries remained small compared with other products at €818m last year, increasing market access as sanitary bans slowly lift around the world saw a near 18% jump in European beef sales to third countries last year.
The value of grains exported by Europe saw the only significant fall, with wheat exports down 27.5% and other cereals down 13.5%.