Eurofile Richard Wright
EU food exports are continuing to boom, with the latest report from the European Commission saying that October 2018 set a new record for agrifood trade.
Exports were 13.1 billion euro – almost 3% higher than the past record month of March 2017.
The balance of trade difference between exports and imports was 3bn euro, a 13% improvement on the same month in 2017.
This suggests the EU policy of aggressively pursuing global trade deals and a big focus on commissioner supported trade missions is paying dividends.
Export successes were evenly spread between food and drink and included wheat exports, which rose by 73 million euro.
Despite the war of words between the Trump administration and Brussels, the US bilateral trade between Europe and the US is now at record levels.
At 5.2 million tonnes in 2018, imports of American soya accounted for 75% of European demand and now dwarf imports from Brazil, which once dominated the EU market. Other key export markets for the EU include China and Russia.
The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) is winding up pressure on their government to secure an immediate commitment from the European Commission that it will provide financial support for agriculture to offset the impact of Brexit.
As a major supplier to the UK market, Ireland is already being hit badly by the almost 20% plunge in the value of sterling against the euro since the EU referendum in 2016 and is now facing uncertainty about the type of Brexit deal that will be in place after March.
This has had an immediate impact on cattle prices, with the IFA suggesting EU compensation should begin at 20 euro a head for every five cent drop in cattle prices. It says Irish farmers are facing “Armageddon from Brexit”. Research carried out for the European Commission claims it is realistic to think that agricultural production could be doubled in Europe by 2050 by making better use of science.
It suggests this could be achieved without GM technology, but warns that for all science there needs to be a better relationship from the outset with the general public.
It also suggests this is the lesson of conflict in Europe over GM techniques.
This Cropbuster project research is led by Wageningen University in the Netherlands, in association with teams in 18 other countries.
The first stage is due to be completed by 2021. The focus is on ways to make better use of natural photosynthesis and finding new techniques to optimise the use of minerals.
The research will also look at how water availability could become a factor limiting agricultural productivity.
Meanwhile in a major breakthrough, after six years of stalemate, China has opened its market to six major GM crop varieties from the US.
This could take China down the GM road, in the same way that the science developed rapidly in Brazil for soya.
Imports of American soya accounted for 75% of European demand in 2018 and now dwarfs imports from Brazil.