BRUSSELS: The EU beat out the United States to become the world’s top exporter of agricultural and food products last year, a European Commission report on the global farming market said on Monday (Tuesday in Manila).
Fuelled by record sales to China and other emerging markets, in 2013 the 28 countries of the European Union sold 120 billion euros ($163 billion) in agri-food products, up 5.8 percent and with cereals alone accounting for over two thirds of the jump.
A market of 500 million people, the EU remained the world’s biggest importer of farming and food products, though the level was mostly unchanged from 2012 at 101.5 billion euros.
A quarter of Chinese imports came from the United States, but the EU saw its share rise to 9.1 percent in 2013, mainly on sales of malt extract for beer brewing, and pork.
Hit by drought, the United States lost the top exporter perch with sales of soya bean and cotton especially affected. Lower prices in China also hurt US exports putting neighbor Canada back as top destination.
Agricultural products in the EU make up 9 percent of total bloc exports, ranking fourth after machinery, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
The EU became a net exporter of agricultural goods in 2010, and has seen its trade surplus in the sector grow steadily ever since.
The rise in exports comes despite the strong euro headwind which has hurt results across several economic sectors in Europe.
EU exports to Japan have notably taken a hit because of the high value of the euro against the depreciating yen.
Agriculture is becoming a key battleground in free trade talks between the US and EU that are meant to conclude by the end of this year, and losing the top exporter throne will be an added point of discord for Washington.