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EU food exports drop as demand shrinks, says report

By Lorraine Heller , 22-Apr-2010

European food and drink exports saw a double-digit drop last year, reflecting a shrinking demand for most major food categories in foreign markets, according to a new report.

Protectionist tendencies related to the global economic crisis as well as global price trends were two further reasons for the dip in exports, which fell 10 per cent in the first seven months of 2009 compared to the previous year.

“All major categories of EU food and drink exports have been affected. The highest reductions were observed for concentrated milk (-33 per cent) and pork meat (-21 per cent). However, spirits and wines, frozen fish, cheese, waters and olive oil did not escape the double-digit decrease either,” wrote the Confederation of the food and drink industries of the EU (CIAA) in its report Data & Trends of the European Food and Drink Industry 2009.

Leading export products

Beverages and processed goods such as bakery, chocolate, confectionery, pasta and prepared meals continue to make up around 60 per cent of the EU’s export market. Together with value-added dairy products, these “contribute significantly” to the positive EU trade balance, said CIAA.

The main sectors of EU food and drink exports in 2008 were as follows:

  • Beverages (31 per cent of total exports)
  • Various food products (28 per cent)
  • Meat products (11 per cent)
  • Dairy products (11 per cent)
  • Processed fruit and vegetables (5 per cent)
  • Animal and vegetable oils and fats (5 per cent)
  • Flour and starch products (4 per cent)
  • Fish products (3 per cent)

However, the export value of some beverages declined significantly in 2008 after a period of regular growth in previous years. “This was particularly the case of spirits, exports of which decreased by 7 per cent and of mineral waters and soft drinks, exports of which decreased by 10 per cent,” states the report.

“The most remarkable decrease in exports affected producers of processed fruit and vegetables. The trade deficit of the sector increased by an additional €377 million.”

Trade balance

CIAA said that during the first seven months of 2009, the trade balance remained slightly positive. However, overall a negative trend in EU trade balance continues as the value of imports grows faster than the value of exports.

Food and drink exports in 2008 recorded a value of €33,176m, while imports came in at €32,273m. The figures for the first seven months of 2009 are €29,864m and €29,734m respectively.

The USA is by far the most important destination for European food and drink products, said CIAA.

“Despite a 10 per cent drop in value of exports in 2008, the American market still represents 17 per cent of total EU food and drink sales. On the other hand, EU exports to the majority of emerging countries continue to grow. Exports to Ukraine and Hong Kong witnessed impressive increases in 2008 of 57 per cent and 36 per cent respectively.”

In terms of imports, the report said products from the ‘new world’ agricultural players are becoming increasingly important. “Products from Brazil, Argentina and China, together represent nearly 30 per cent of total EU food and drink imports. Meanwhile, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia provide Europe with products worth as much as the joint value of the imports from traditional producers, such as USA and Switzerland.”

Yesterday, FoodNavigator.com reported on the size of the EU food and drink manufacturing industry, and on R&D investment levels in the sector. To read that article, click here .

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