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Global agricultural market trends and their impacts on European Union agriculture


  • von Witzke, Harald
  • Noleppa, Steffen
  • Schwarz, Gerald


The economic, political and climatic conditions in which farmers around the world have to make their production and investment decisions are changing dramatically. This study analyses the driving forces of changes in agricultural world markets and their implications for European Union agriculture for the time period 2003/05 - 2013/15. The impacts on European Union agriculture are quantified using of a multi-market-model. The mega-trend of declining world market prices has ended. Since the turn of the millennium world market prices for agricultural goods have been increasing. This trend can be expected to continue. Not only will prices have a tendency to increase, but also fluctuations of agricultural world market prices are likely to be higher in the future than they have been in the past. The reason for the positive trend in agricultural world market prices is that global demand growth outstrips the growth in global supply, and this trend will continue in the foreseeable future. The global demand for food will continue to grow mainly for two reasons. One is the continued growth in world population; the other is the sustained growth in per capita incomes in developing and newly industrialised countries, with corresponding increase of per capita food consumption. Global food supply will have difficulty keeping pace with the growth in demand. A key factor is that the globally available agricultural land is limited in scale. Consequently, to meet the needs of the rapidly growing world population the necessary production growth will have to a large extent be met by a rise in productivity on the land already being farmed today. However, this will be difficult to accomplish as global agricultural productivity growth has been in decline since the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Moreover, the rapid expansion of bio-energy production diverts agricultural land and other inputs away from food production. In addition, increasing water scarcity is starting to act as a constraint to production growth, and climate change is also beginning to affect production. The quantitative results of the analysis for key crops demonstrates that, both in the European Union and globally, agricultural demand will grow faster than supply during the time period 2003/05 - 2013/15. European Union demand for grains can be expected to increase by 10-20 percent and by more than 50 percent in oilseeds. However, European Union supply of wheat and other grains can only be expected to increase by less than 10 percent, corn by 15-20 percent, and oilseeds by more than 30 percent. As a consequence, the price of wheat can be expected to increase by more than 10 percent and the price of corn and oilseeds by more than 30 percent. With regard to the trade balance, the net trade position of European Union agriculture can be expected to deteriorate. While there would be a reduction in net imports of corn, net imports of oilseeds are expected to increase by more than 70 percent. Moreover, it is foreseeable that for wheat the European Union will switch from being a net exporter to a net importer. The same is true for other grains. Two additional aspects warrant further considerations. These are achieving world food security and combating global warming. For the world’s poor, increasing food prices may become a matter of survival. The results of the analysis confirm that the developing countries will not even come close to securing food supply for their rapidly growing population through domestic production, even under the best of all realistic scenarios. Consequently, the increasing food import needs of developing countries can only be met if the industrialised countries produce more and export more food. However, growth in bio-energy production in the European Union will let the region revert back to a net importing position in wheat, and it will have to increase imports of oilseeds. This will reduce the European Union’s ability to help in the fight against starvation in the world, unless there would be an increase in agricultural productivity beyond what is anticipated in this analysis. Climate change is now widely accepted as a fact, and human activity is a contributing factor. While probably not being of major importance during the time period considered in this study, world agriculture will be affected by global warming in the long run. On balance, world food production will be negatively affected as a consequence of climate change. Climate change and the associated additional increase in world food prices will amplify hunger and malnutrition in developing countries. Food production will decline predominantly in the countries which are already characterised by increasing food import needs. These countries are also those that are unable to make the necessary investment in agricultural research to adapt food production to the changing climate and to cope with increase in demand. Higher food prices will also increase the incentives for deforestation in order to claim additional farm land. Deforestation however, is one of the most important causes of global warming. In the global picture, the European Union will be less affected by climate change. It may even benefit. Europe will become a more secure production location in comparison to other world regions. Consequently, it has to take responsibility to significantly contribute to world food security and also to combat global warming by utilising its production potential. To avoid negative repercussions and to fully capitalise on its production potential, it is imperative that the European Union employs strategies which increase overall agricultural productivity on the available agricultural land. Zusammenfassung In diesem Beitrag werden die Bestimmungsfaktoren der Entwicklungen auf den Weltagrarmärkten untersucht und deren Auswirkungen auf die EU Landwirtschaft für den Zeitraum 2003/05 - 2013/15 quantifiziert. Dabei zeigt sich, dass die weltweite Nachfrage nach Agrargütern stärker steigt als das Angebot, so dass der Trend der Weltagrarpreise positiv ist. Die gegenwärtig (Mai 2008) sehr hohen Preise werden indes nicht von Dauer sein. Vielmehr ist mittelfristig mit einem eher moderaten Preisanstieg von etwa 15-30 % im Untersuchungszeitraum zu rechnen. Bei Weizen und anderem Getreide (außer Mais) wird die Europäische Union wieder zu einem Nettoimporteur. Die zu erwartenden Entwicklungen auf den Weltagrarmärkten und die dadurch steigenden Preise für Nahrungsgüter werden zu einer ernsthaften Verschärfung der Welternährungslage führen. Da die Flächen, die weltweit für die Nahrungsgüterproduktion verfügbar sind, begrenzt sind, muss die Steigerung des Angebots, die notwendig ist, um die rasch wachsende Weltbevölkerung in hinreichendem Umfang mit Nahrungsgütern zu versorgen, weitgehend über eine Steigerung der Produktivität derjenigen Flächen erreicht werden, die bereits heute landwirtschaftlich genutzt werden. Eine Steigerung der Produktivität in der Weltlandwirtschaft führt zu geringeren Nahrungsgüterpreisen. Sie verringert daher auch die Anreize auf dem Weg der Brandrodung zusätzliche landwirtschaftliche Nutzflächen zu erschließen. Gegenwärtig tragen diese Brandrodungen 18 % zum anthropogenen Klimawandel bei. Dies ist mehr als der Klimaeffekt der weltweiten Industrieproduktion. Damit ist das landwirtschaftliche Produktivitätswachstum nicht nur zentral im Kampf gegen den Hunger auf der Welt, sondern es leistet auch einen wichtigen Beitrag zur Verringerung des Klimawandels.

Suggested Citation

  • von Witzke, Harald & Noleppa, Steffen & Schwarz, Gerald, 2008. "Global agricultural market trends and their impacts on European Union agriculture," Working Paper Series 6276, Humboldt University Berlin, Department of Agricultural Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:huiawp:6276

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:ags:gewipr:260136 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Breuer, Thomas & Henckes, Christian & Loos, Tim K. & Zeller, Manfred, 2011. "Nachwachsende Rohstoffe – entwicklungspolitisch einmal anders gedacht," Research in Development Economics and Policy (Discussion Paper Series) 114751, Universitaet Hohenheim, Department of Agricultural Economics and Social Sciences in the Tropics and Subtropics.
    3. World Bank, 2009. "A State Trading Enterprise for Grains in Russia? Issues and Options," World Bank Other Operational Studies 18899, The World Bank.

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