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Agricultural Trade Reaches An All-Time High

GENERAL - Over the past year, agricultural trade has reached an all-time high, at least 12 per cent above the previous record set in 2008. Theimpact of the economic crisis led to a contraction of six per cent in 2009 but global agricultural exportsrebounded by over 19 per cent last year.

The EU as well as the other top exporters all benefited from buoyant markets. Following the slump in 2009, the EU, the US and Brazil bounced back with over 20 per cent growth in exports, to reach record levels in 2010.

For the past three years, the EU and the US have been roughly neck and neck as the world's leading agri-food exporters.

In 2010 US exports reached an all-time high of €92 billion, just ahead of the EU's record €91 billion exports.

The EU remains by far the world's biggest importer with imports worth €83 billion in 2008-10, well ahead of the US. EU imports grew by nine per cent in 2010 though they remain five per cent below the peak of 2008.

US imports grew strongly by 17 per cent in 2010. China's meteoric growth in imports, surging by 47 per cent in 2010, means that it surpasses Japan as the third largest importer.

The EU's trade balance improved to the extent that it turned into a net exporter in 2010, for the first time since 2006. The €6 billion agricultural trade surplus is largely due to expansion in the value of exports, driven by stronger demand for final products, as the EU's trading partners came out of recession and higher prices for commodities and intermediate goods. Exchange rate fluctuations may also have contributed, given the weakening of the Euro against a number of major currencies in 2010.

The EU remains the biggest importer of agricultural products from developing countries, importing €59 billion worth of goods in 2008-10. This is far ahead of the US, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand put together, whose combined imports from developing countries reached just €49 billion over this period.

The US reached a record agricultural trade surplus of €27 billion with the value of exports up by 24 per cent to an all time high. Brazil also saw record exports and growth of 23 per cent despite the strengthening of the Real against the US$, potentially damaging its competitiveness on global markets.

The recovery of the markets of some major importers is witnessed by the sharp growth in imports; Russia's imports rebounded by 26 per cent, despite continued market access restrictions for poultrymeat while China's imports surged by 47 per cent.

The prosperity of overseas markets is a key factor in determining opportunities for EU businesses. Trade growth now appears to be back on track after the exceptional decreases in 2009.

the Fish Site Editor

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