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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Processed agricultural products in the EU

The EU is the world's largest exporter of food and drink products and its second largest importer.

The EU food and drink industry is not only Europe’s largest manufacturer, but it is also the largest food and drink exporter in the world and a major importer.

The product category is vast and contains diverse categories of processed agricultural products, e.g. the confectionary industry, chocolate products, soups, ice cream, pasta, food preparations, non-alcoholic beverages, beer, aromatised wines, spirit drinks, tobacco products, whey protein products, modified starches, amongst others.

In addition to its international commitments under World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements, the EU has entered into bilateral agreements with important trading partners concerning trade in PAPs, including India, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand. In 2023, the main partner countries for the EU’s trade in processed agricultural products (PAPs) were the United Kingdom, the United States, China and Switzerland.

EU trade policy aims to improve market access conditions to export markets taking into account the highest level of quality and social/environmental responsibility, maintain fair terms of competition and contribute to sustainable development.

Trade statistics

The EU food industry is a major contributor to the EU trade balance with steadily growing export numbers. In 2021, the EU exported about €68.8 billion worth of PAPs to the rest of the world. By 2023, this figure had risen to €84.0 billion. Imports of PAPs into the EU stood at €24.8 billion in 2021 and rose to €32.3 billion in 2023.

These figures represent an increasingly positive trade balance in PAPs between the EU and the rest of the world. The trade balance reached almost €52 billion in 2023.


In 2023, the United Kingdom was the number one export destination for European PAPs, with a market share of 21.4%. The United States came second with 14.2 %, followed by China (6.4%), and Switzerland (4.5%).

The four largest EU exporters of PAPs in 2023 were the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Italy. The sum of their exports accounted for 57.8% of the EU’s total PAPs exports.


The United Kingdom was also the main supplier of PAPs to the EU, accounting for 25.6% of the EU’s total extra-EU PAPs imports in 2023. China ranked second with a 10.6% market share, followed by the United States (7.5%), Switzerland (7.3%) and Indonesia (5.8%).

The Netherlands, Germany, France Ireland and Spain were the EU's five largest importers of PAPs in 2023. The sum of their imports accounted for 66.9% of the EU’s total PAPs imports.