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Food Trade Comparison for Western

Europe and North America

Steven D. Savage, Ph.D.
Savage&Associates
Applied Mythology Blog
Savage.sd@gmail.com

Overview
North America and Western Europe are similar in terms of population
(451 and 464 million respectively) and in wealth – per capita GDPs of
$39,391 and $34,828 respectively. However, these regions are very
different in terms of food self sufficiency. Over the last 10 years W.
Europe has been a net importer of an average of 59 million metric tons
of food/year which represents 132 kg per person. Over the same time
period, N. America has exported a net 145.5 million metric tons or
313.7 kg/person. Animal feeds are the largest category both for
European imports and N. American exports. Other large categories
are oils, fruit, sweeteners, meats and cereal grains. W. Europe is a net
exporter of meat, grains, vegetables, dairy, flours, processed grains
and alcoholic beverages. While there are a number of categories for
which North American exports are rising over time, this is only true for
a few categories of food for Western Europe. As global food supplies
tighten between now and mid-century, Europe can be expected to be a
major competitor with other, less affluent parts of the world such as
Africa that depend on international food trade.

Background and Methodology

Trade statistics are available from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAOSTATS) from 1961 to 2010.

Data was downloaded for North America (Canada, Mexico, US), for Europe (41
countries). FAO’s region for Eastern Europe was also downloaded and the data
subtracted to leave 30 countries representing Western Europe (Albania, Austria,
Belgium, Belgium-Luxembourg, Bosnia and Hertzegovina, Croatia, Denmark,
Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania,
Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Serbia and
Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom). Africa data
based on FAOSTATS list of 55 countries.

The hundreds of commodities represented were summarized to 22 major categories:
alcoholic beverages, bran, coffee/tea, chocolate-ingredients, dairy, animal fats,
animal feed (maize, soybeans, sorghum, hay…), fiber, flour, fruit, fruit juice, germ,
cereal grains (wheat, barley, rye, rice…), processed foods from grains, meats, nuts,
vegetable oils, pet food, pulse crops, spices, starch crops, sweeteners (sugar beets,
sugar cane…), vegetables. Tobacco products and fiber crops were analyzed, but not
included in the final food summary

Population and per capita GDP data were taken from Wikipedia

North America has net food exports of approximately three
times the net imports of Western Europe which imports as
much food as Africa which has 2.53 times the population
Comparison of Net Food Import Status
100,000,000

Western Europe – Net Importer

50,000,000

Metric Tonnes

Africa – Net Importer
0
1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

-50,000,000
-100,000,000

-150,000,000

North America – Net Exporter
-200,000,000

2010

Summary of Trade and Production Magnitudes and
Direction for Major Crop Categories

Summary of Trade Magnitudes and Direction for Minor
Crop Categories

Summary On a Per
Capita Basis

Net Food Trade Average 2001-2010 Expressed As Pounds
per Person per Year
Animal Feeds
Vegetable Oils
Fruit
Sweeteners
Meat
Cereal Grains
Nuts
Tea/Coffee
Starch crops
Chocolate-related
Pulse Crops
Spices
Pet Food
Fruit Juices
Bran
Germ
Vegetables
Animal Fats
Dairy
Flour
Alcoholic Beverages
Processed Grains
Total

W. Europe
215.0
67.1
40.2
17.3
-10.9
-23.4
13.1
12.7
5.4
4.5
3.4
0.8
0.5
0.1
0.0
-0.1
-2.8
-2.8
-6.5
-8.6
-16.8
-18.1
290.2

N. America
-483.5
-26.6
35.9
19.5
-23.9
-213.4
-3.0
7.1
0.5
3.4
-22.1
0.8
-3.7
10.7
-1.1
0.0
12.3
-6.8
-1.8
-2.8
17.6
-10.0
-690.9

Africa
29.9
9.4
-7.2
8.1
2.7
73.1
-1.0
-1.3
0.1
-3.8
1.8
0.1
0.1
0.0
0.2
0.0
0.5
0.5
2.0
4.1
0.3
2.2
121.6

Positive values are net imports, negative values are net exports

Major Trade Commodities

Comparison of Net Import Status for Western Europe and
North America (kg per capita, average 2001-2010)
150
100

98

W Europe

Net Imports

50

30

18

16

8

N America

9

-100
-150

Net Exports

-200
-250

-220

-11

-11

grains

-5

meat

sweeteners

-12

fruit

oils

-50

feed

0

-97

Minor Trade Commodities (1 of 2)

Comparison of Net Import Status for Western Europe and
North America (kg per capita, average 2001-10)
8.0
6.0

5.7

6.0

3.2

4.0

W Europe

Net Imports

2.0

2.5

2.1

1.6

N America

1.6

1.2

0.4 -0.1

0.2

0.4 0.4

0.2

0.0

-10.0

Net Exports

-1.7

pet food

spices

tobacco
products

-6.4

-10.1

-12.0

fiber

pulses

chocolate

-8.0

starch

-6.0

caffeine

-4.0

-1.4

nuts

-2.0

Minor Trade Commodities (2 of 2)

Comparison of Net Import Status for Western Europe and
North America (kg per capita, average 2001-10)
10.0
8.0

8.0

W Europe

6.0

4.9

5.6

Net Imports

N America

4.0
2.0
0.0

0.0

-0.1 0.0

-10.0

Net Exports

-3.1 -2.9

-1.2

flour

dairy

-0.8

fat

germ

-1.3

-3.9

-7.6

grains
processed

-8.0

-1.3

vegetables

-6.0

bran

-4.0

-0.5

fruit juice

-2.0

Alcoholic
beverages

0.0

-4.6

-8.2

Europe’s most significant imports are commodities used as
animal feeds
European Trade Trends ( Animal Feed )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

90,000,000

W Europe
All Europe

80,000,000
70,000,000
60,000,000
50,000,000
40,000,000
30,000,000
20,000,000
10,000,000
0

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

North America exports vast quantities of animal feed crops
North American Trade Trends ( Animal Feed )
0
1960

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

-20,000,000

-40,000,000

-60,000,000

-80,000,000

-100,000,000

-120,000,000

-140,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Africa is a growing importer of feed crops
African Trade Trends ( Feed Crops )
25,000,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

20,000,000

15,000,000

10,000,000

5,000,000

0
1960
-5,000,000

-10,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

European imports of Oilseeds have been increasing since
1980
European Trade Trends ( Oilseeds )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

25,000,000

W Europe
All Europe
20,000,000

15,000,000

10,000,000

5,000,000

0

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Net Oilseed exports from North America have been
increasing, particularly in recent years
North American Trade Trends ( Oil Seeds )
0

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

1960
-1,000,000
-2,000,000
-3,000,000
-4,000,000
-5,000,000
-6,000,000
-7,000,000
-8,000,000
-9,000,000
-10,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Africa imports ~70% as much oilseed as Europe
African Trade Trends (Oilseeds )
8,000,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

7,000,000
6,000,000
5,000,000
4,000,000
3,000,000
2,000,000
1,000,000
0
1960
-1,000,000
-2,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Europe, particularly Western Europe, is a growing net
importer of sweeteners
European Trade Trends ( Sweeteners )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

12,000,000

10,000,000

W Europe
All Europe

8,000,000

6,000,000

4,000,000

2,000,000

0

1960
-2,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

North American sweetener imports are moderate and
relatively stable
North American Trade Trends ( Sweeteners )
9,000,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

8,000,000
7,000,000
6,000,000
5,000,000
4,000,000
3,000,000
2,000,000
1,000,000
0
1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Africa imports more sweeteners than Europe or North
America
African Trade Trends ( Sweeteners )
8,000,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

7,000,000
6,000,000
5,000,000
4,000,000
3,000,000
2,000,000
1,000,000
0
1960
-1,000,000
-2,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Europe is a net importer of fruit, but recent growth has
been outside of Western Europe
European Trade Trends ( Fruit )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

18,000,000

W Europe
All Europe

16,000,000
14,000,000
12,000,000
10,000,000
8,000,000
6,000,000
4,000,000
2,000,000
0

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Fruit is one of the fastest growing import items for North
America
North American Trade Trends ( Fruit )
10,000,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

9,000,000
8,000,000
7,000,000
6,000,000
5,000,000
4,000,000
3,000,000
2,000,000
1,000,000
0
1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Africa is an increasingly large exporter of fruit
African Trade Trends ( Fruit )
0

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

1960
-500,000
-1,000,000
-1,500,000
-2,000,000
-2,500,000
-3,000,000
-3,500,000
-4,000,000
-4,500,000
-5,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Fruit juices are a minor component of Europe’s net imports
or exports
European Trade Trends ( Fruit Juice )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

2,000,000

W Europe
All Europe
1,500,000

1,000,000

500,000

0

1960
-500,000

-1,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

North America is a net importer of fruit juices, increasingly
so since the turn of the century
North American Trade Trends ( Fruit Juices )
3,500,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

3,000,000

2,500,000

2,000,000

1,500,000

1,000,000

500,000

0
1960
-500,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Africa has very limited trade in fruit juices
African Trade Trends ( Fruit Juices )
80,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

60,000
40,000
20,000
0
1960
-20,000
-40,000
-60,000
-80,000
-100,000
-120,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Europe continues to slowly increase imports of coffee and
tea
European Trade Trends ( Coffee and Tea... )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

4,000,000

W Europe
All Europe

3,500,000
3,000,000
2,500,000
2,000,000
1,500,000
1,000,000
500,000
0

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

North American coffee and tea imports have been rising
slowly since the mid 1990s
North American Trade Trends ( Coffee and Tea... )
1,800,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

1,600,000
1,400,000
1,200,000
1,000,000
800,000
600,000
400,000
200,000
0
1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Africa’s coffee and tea exports are diminishing slowly
African Trade Trends ( Coffee and Tea)
0
1960

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

-200,000

-400,000

-600,000

-800,000

-1,000,000

-1,200,000

-1,400,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Europe is a net importer of nuts, mainly for Western Europe
in recent decades
European Trade Trends ( Nuts )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

4,500,000
4,000,000
3,500,000
3,000,000
2,500,000
2,000,000
1,500,000
1,000,000

W Europe
All Europe

500,000
0

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

North America is a major exporter of almonds and peanuts
and an importer of cashews
North American Trade Trends ( Nuts )
500,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

0
1960
-500,000

-1,000,000

-1,500,000

-2,000,000

-2,500,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

African nut exports are now minor
African Trade Trends ( Nuts )
0

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

1960

-500,000

-1,000,000

-1,500,000

-2,000,000

-2,500,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Europe had been a moderate net importer of pulse crops,
but very recently has dropped to near a net zero exchange
European Trade Trends ( Pulse Crops )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

2,500,000

2,000,000

W Europe
All Europe

1,500,000

1,000,000

500,000

0

1960
-500,000

-1,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

North America has rapidly expanding net exports of pulse
crops
North American Trade Trends ( Pulse Crops )
0
1960

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

-1,000,000

-2,000,000

-3,000,000

-4,000,000

-5,000,000

-6,000,000

-7,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Africa imports a small but growing quantity of pulse crops
African Trade Trends ( Pulse Crops )
1,400,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

1,200,000
1,000,000
800,000
600,000
400,000
200,000
0
1960
-200,000
-400,000
-600,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Spices are a minor import item for Europe
European Trade Trends ( Spices)

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

300,000

W Europe
All Europe
250,000

200,000

150,000

100,000

50,000

0

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

North American spice imports are also increasing
North American Trade Trends ( Spices )
200,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

180,000
160,000
140,000
120,000
100,000
80,000
60,000
40,000
20,000
0
1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Africa has shifted from being a net exporter of spices to a
minor net importer
African Trade Trends ( Spices )
150,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

100,000

50,000

0
1960
-50,000

-100,000

-150,000

-200,000

-250,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Europe was once a major importer of starch crops –
primarily cassava, but this has declined to near zero
European Trade Trends ( Starch Sources )
10,000,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

9,000,000

W Europe
All Europe

8,000,000
7,000,000
6,000,000
5,000,000
4,000,000
3,000,000
2,000,000
1,000,000
0

1960

-1,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

North America does import some starch sources,
particularly cassava
North American Trade Trends ( Starch Crops )
250,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

200,000

150,000

100,000

50,000

0
1960
-50,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Africa now imports small amounts of cassava
African Trade Trends ( Starch )
150,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

100,000

50,000

0
1960
-50,000

-100,000

-150,000

-200,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Western Europe has seen declining imports of tobacco-based products
since the late ’70s – a trend only more recently seen for all of Europe
European Trade Trends ( Tobacco Products )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

800,000
700,000

W Europe
All Europe

600,000
500,000
400,000
300,000
200,000
100,000
0

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

North American net trade in tobacco products has
diminished to near zero
North American Trade Trends ( Tobacco Products )
50,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

0
1960
-50,000

-100,000

-150,000

-200,000

-250,000

-300,000

-350,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Africa is a tobacco exporter
African Trade Trends ( Tobacco )
0
1960

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

-50,000

-100,000

-150,000

-200,000

-250,000

-300,000

-350,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Western Europe has become a small, net exporter of
vegetables while Europe as a whole is a net importer
European Trade Trends ( Vegetables )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

5,000,000

4,000,000

W Europe
All Europe

3,000,000

2,000,000

1,000,000

0

1960
-1,000,000

-2,000,000

-3,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Net Vegetable imports to North America have been
growing steadily since ~1990
North American Trade Trends ( Vegetables )
4,500,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

4,000,000
3,500,000
3,000,000
2,500,000
2,000,000
1,500,000
1,000,000
500,000
0
1960
-500,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Africa’s net vegetable exports have become a small net
import
African Trade Trends ( Vegetables )
1,000,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

500,000

0
1960
-500,000

-1,000,000

-1,500,000

-2,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Europe is a net exporter of meat products, particularly
Western Europe
European Trade Trends ( Meat Products )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

2,000,000

1,000,000

0

1960

1970

-1,000,000

-2,000,000

-3,000,000

W Europe
All Europe
-4,000,000

-5,000,000

1980

1990

2000

2010

North America is a major exporter of meat
North American Trade Trends ( Meat )
2,000,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

1,000,000
0
1960
-1,000,000
-2,000,000
-3,000,000
-4,000,000
-5,000,000
-6,000,000
-7,000,000
-8,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Africa is a growing net importer of meat
African Trade Trends ( Meat )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

2,000,000

1,500,000

1,000,000

500,000

0
1960

-500,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Europe is a highly productive region for grain crops, but at
least for Western Europe, net exports have declined
European Trade Trends ( Grains )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

30,000,000

W Europe
All Europe

20,000,000
10,000,000
0

1960
-10,000,000
-20,000,000
-30,000,000
-40,000,000
-50,000,000
-60,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

North American net grain exports have been stably in the
40-50 million tonne range for the last 15 years
North American Trade Trends ( Grains )
0
1960

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

-10,000,000

-20,000,000

-30,000,000

-40,000,000

-50,000,000

-60,000,000

-70,000,000

-80,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Africa is highly dependent on grain imports
African Trade Trends ( Grains )
50,000,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

45,000,000
40,000,000
35,000,000
30,000,000
25,000,000
20,000,000
15,000,000
10,000,000
5,000,000
0
1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Grain-based products had been a growing net export for
Europe, but that trend has recently reversed
European Trade Trends
( Processed Foods From Grains )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

1,000,000

0

1960

1970

-1,000,000

-2,000,000

-3,000,000

-4,000,000

-5,000,000

W Europe
All Europe

1980

1990

2000

2010

Grain-based products (e.g. cereals, malt, bread…) have
been a minor net export except for a brief period
North American Trade Trends ( Grain-based
Products )
500,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

0
1960
-500,000
-1,000,000
-1,500,000
-2,000,000
-2,500,000
-3,000,000
-3,500,000
-4,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Africa is also importing more and more products made from
grains
African Trade Trends ( Grain-based Products )
1,600,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

1,400,000
1,200,000
1,000,000
800,000
600,000
400,000
200,000
0
1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Not surprisingly, Europe imports substantial quantities of
ingredients for chocolate
European Trade Trends ( Chocolate )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

1,600,000
1,400,000

W Europe
All Europe

1,200,000
1,000,000
800,000
600,000
400,000
200,000
0

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

North American chocolate-related imports have been
growing since 1980
North American Trade Trends ( Chocolate-related )
1,000,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

900,000
800,000
700,000
600,000
500,000
400,000
300,000
200,000
100,000
0
1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Africa is a major and growing source of chocolate
African Trade Trends ( Ingredients for Chocolate )
0

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

1960

-500,000

-1,000,000

-1,500,000

-2,000,000

-2,500,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Europe has been a net exporter of dairy products, but for
Western Europe, those exports have been declining
European Trade Trends ( Dairy )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

500,000

0

1960
-500,000

-1,000,000

-1,500,000

-2,000,000

-2,500,000

-3,000,000

-3,500,000

1970

1980

1990

W Europe
All Europe
2000
2010

North America has only recently begun to have much in the
way of net dairy exports
North American Trade Trends ( Dairy )
400,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

200,000

0
1960
-200,000

-400,000

-600,000

-800,000

-1,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Africa imports a significant amount of dairy products
African Trade Trends ( Dairy )
1,400,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

1,200,000

1,000,000

800,000

600,000

400,000

200,000

0
1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

European net flour exports have been declining since 1990
European Trade Trends ( Flours )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

1,000,000

W Europe
All Europe

0

1960
-1,000,000

-2,000,000

-3,000,000

-4,000,000

-5,000,000

-6,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

North American flour exports have also been declining on a
net basis
North American Trade Trends ( Flour )
0
1960

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

-500,000

-1,000,000

-1,500,000

-2,000,000

-2,500,000

-3,000,000

-3,500,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Africa is importing less of its grain as flour
African Trade Trends ( Flour )
4,500,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

4,000,000
3,500,000
3,000,000
2,500,000
2,000,000
1,500,000
1,000,000
500,000
0
1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Europe is a major net exporter of alcoholic beverages,
primarily wine and distilled alcohol products
European Trade Trends ( Alcoholic Beverages )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

2,000,000

W Europe
All Europe

1,000,000

0

1960
-1,000,000

-2,000,000

-3,000,000

-4,000,000

-5,000,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Net imports of alcoholic beverages (beer>distilled products>wine) have
been rapidly increasing for North America
North American Trade Trends ( Alcoholic
beverages )

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

6,000,000

5,000,000

4,000,000

3,000,000

2,000,000

1,000,000

0
1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Once a net exporter, Africa has recently become a net
importer of alcoholic products
African Trade Trends ( Alcoholic Beverages )
400,000

Net Imports (Tonnes, Imports - Exports)

200,000
0
1960
-200,000
-400,000
-600,000
-800,000
-1,000,000
-1,200,000
-1,400,000
-1,600,000

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010