A recent report by the European Commission maintains that organic imports will increase by 2.8% in 2021
Total imports of organic agri-food products into the EU have increased from 2.79 million tonnes in 2020 to 2.87 million (+2.8%) in 2021.
However, data on UK imports is not available for 2020 as it was a de facto EU member state during the transition period following its departure from the EU on 31 January 2020. EU imports of organic products have decreased in 2021, excluding imports from the UK. 1% compared to 2020, 2.76 million tonnes.
Commodities still lead organic imports, but their share is shrinking
The European Union remains a major importer of organic agri-food products, essentially products that have undergone no or little change.
The main imports, in terms of volume, are highly standardized products that are traded in bulk, such as grains, cocoa beans and coffee (commodities), as well as fruits and vegetables and meat (other primary products). Commodities and other primary products each accounted for 44% of total organic imports.
However, in volume terms, imports of the commodity declined 5.3% to 1.27 million tonnes, mainly due to oil cakes from China, wheat from Ukraine and short supply of sugar from Brazil and India.
On the other hand, imports of other primary products, in volume terms, increased by 5.7%, to 1.25 million tonnes, mainly due to increased demand for tropical fruits and especially bananas.
Imports of tropical fruits – the largest group of products – increased 7.0% to 903,000 tonnes, of which banana imports increased 6.2% to 721,000 tonnes.
Imports of high-value products were significantly lower, but they nevertheless showed high growth rates: imports of processed products (mainly juices, olive oil) increased by 7.0% to 212,000 tonnes. Imports of food preparations and beverages more than doubled (+120% each), to 98,000 tonnes and 3.7 million tonnes, respectively.
A quarter of imported olive oil was organic
Of the 186,000 tonnes of olive oil imported into the EU in 2021, 45,000 tonnes, or 24.0%, were organic and came almost exclusively from Tunisia, compared with 16.3% in 2020. The significant increase in share is the result of organic olive oil. Showing a much smaller annual decline in imports (-5.6%) than non-organic olive oil (-35.8%).
Other products with significant and increasing ecological share in 2021 are tropical fruits (10.2%) and honey (7.9%). On the other hand, organic import quotas for sugar (8.6%) and cocoa beans (4.5%) decreased.
tropical fruit exporter Head of list of main origins
The main exporters of organic bananas – Ecuador and the Dominican Republic – are among the top exporters of organic products to the European Union. Exports from these countries have increased by 6.5% and 5.1% respectively from 2020 to 2021.
Since the implementation of the EU-UK ATT from 1 January 2021, the UK has become the 8th largest exporter of organic products to the EU (by volume) with 108,000 tonnes. UK organic imports cover a unique list of products, ranging from dairy (100% of EU organic dairy imports) to pet food (98%), beer (100%), poultry meat (100%), sheep and goat meat (81). %) and pork (62%).
Among the main countries of origin, imports from India grew the most in 2021 (+18.1%, especially in oil cakes), followed by Mexico (+10.8%, mainly juices and sugar products). On the other hand, imports from China (-34.4%, oil cake) and Ukraine (-12.9%, wheat) decreased.
More than 50% of imports come to the Netherlands and Germany
One third (945,000 tonnes) of total EU imports of organic products went to the Netherlands (+10.2% versus 2020), and almost 20% (517,000 tonnes) to Germany (+5.2%). Together, these two EU member states imported more than half of the EU’s organic products in 2021.
However, the other top five importers registered a decline. Belgium’s organic imports declined by 8.6% to 277,000 tonnes (less wheat and sugar), France’s by 1.1% to 272,000 tonnes (less sugar) and Italy’s by 4.7% to 225,000 tonnes (less vegetables and oil cakes).
Imports from Ireland were significantly higher than the previous year (84,000 tonnes compared to 62,000 tonnes), and the increase is explained by 51,000 tonnes from the United Kingdom.