Ukraine is now the fourth largest food exporter to the European Union, following an impressive year-on-year increase in export volumes in 2017. The European Commission confirmed this growth in annual figures released on 19 February. Ukrainian agri-food imports into the EU rose 34% last year to reach EUR 5.5 billion, making the country the biggest annual gainer, 6% ahead of fellow growth leader Indonesia.
The increase will come as welcome news to Ukrainian exporters and an indication that the free trade component of the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement is producing results following full implementation in the second half of 2017.
Critics of the Association Agreement have raised concerns over the continued existence of significant quota restrictions limiting Ukrainian agricultural exports to EU markets, while often complex and rigorous EU standardization and regulatory issues have created additional obstacles. Nevertheless, Ukraine’s emergence in 2017 as the largest gainer and the fourth biggest contributor country among the EU’s agri-food import sources is a strong indication that Ukrainian exporters are adapting to market conditions.
The growth in Ukrainian agricultural exports to the EU in 2017 was slightly more robust than the generally positive Ukrainian export trends registered throughout the sector. According to figures released by the Ukrainian Agriculture Ministry, agricultural exports rose by 16.3% to reach USD 22.6 billion last year. Key exports included 5.7 million tonnes of sunflower oil worth approximately USD 4.3 billion and 19.4 million tonnes of maize with a value of USD 2.9 billion.