The EC has published its review of agriculture in the EU for 2011. Tables annexed to the review highlight the growing importance of the ACP as a market for EU agricultural exports. While between 2007 and 2010 total EU agricultural exports grew by 22.2%, agricultural exports to the ACP group as a whole grew by 37.5%. Within the ACP group, exports to South Africa grew faster than the overall ACP average, increasing by 51% (exports to the ACP excluding South Africa grew by 35.3%). The data also suggest stronger growth in recent years in EU agricultural exports to West Africa (Ghana +22.7%, Côte d’Ivoire +19.6% and Nigeria +15.3% in value terms between 2008 and 2010, compared to an increase in the total value of EU agricultural exports of 12.1% over the same period).
Between 2007 and 2010 EU agricultural exports to the ACP as a whole grew faster than EU agricultural exports to ASEAN countries, Russia, India, Japan, Switzerland, Norway, candidate countries, Gulf states and NAFTA. The main destinations where EU agricultural product export growth was higher than to the ACP included China, the Mediterranean area and Mercosur.
These trends saw the ACP’s share of total EU agricultural exports increase from 6.9% to 7.7%.
In contrast, between 2007 and 2010 the value of ACP agricultural exports to the EU grew by only 19.8%. However, with the value of total EU agricultural imports increasing by only 11.3%, this saw the ACP’s share of EU agricultural imports increase from 12.7 to 13.7%.
In 2011, the EU recorded an agricultural trade surplus for the second year in a row. In value terms, EU agricultural exports grew by 16% in 2011 compared to 2010. The increase in export values was most pronounced in the categories of ‘spirits and liqueurs and wine and vermouth’ (+20%) and ‘cereals preparations’ (+17%). EU imports of agricultural products at 16% increased by a similar proportion.
Given the growing EU focus on export of value-added food and agricultural products (64% of total EU food and agricultural products), the stronger growth in exports of agricultural products to ACP countries compared to most other export destinations may come as something of a surprise. However, one needs to take into account the strong economic growth of African economies in recent years, urbanisation trends and the emergence of a growing middle class, with changing consumer tastes (for example, increased consumption of cereals-based, value-added products such as pasta – EU exports to ACP countries of this category of products [CN 19] increased by 16% between 2008 and 2010).
Changing consumer tastes in favour of higher-quality, value-added food and agricultural products in African ACP countries in particular could potentially provide the basis for investment in value-added food processing. This potential has been recognised, as agro-processing has been prioritised in a number of African regional development strategies.
Trends in EU agricultural exports however suggest that these aspirations may in the coming years come into conflict with EU trade interests. This gives added significance to ongoing discussions around a number of the contentious issues in the ongoing EPA negotiations.