Agricultural export patterns from Africa to the European Union

South Africa - 4 June 2018

Trade topics: Agricultural Trade, NTMs

For many years, the European Union has been an important market for agricultural products from Africa. However, African agricultural exporters have often found the European market difficult to access because of a raft of NTMs that add to exporters’ costs. The trouble with NTMs in the agricultural arena is that, while ostensibly used to uphold health and safety standards, they could have an underlying protectionist intent – which is very difficult to prove. This study explores how NTMs have affected the agricultural export patterns of four African countries (South Africa, Kenya, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) into the European Union market over the period 1992–2014. A four-stage analytical approach was used, which first determined the nature of export diversification during the period and then traced how the countries’ export patterns might have been influenced by NTMs, product relatedness, and import-market size. In the study, products were classified at the Harmonized System six-digit level into six clusters, from primary agriculture and agro-processing (food and non-food) items, to product inputs and capital inputs. Together these clusters constitute the agro-complex. Among the main findings were that the European Union share of all four countries’ agricultural exports have declined proportionally in the past two decades. Products in the primary agriculture and agro-processing (food) clusters have mainly been subject to SPS measures and technical barriers to trade. Products in the other clusters have been subject to a smaller number of NTMs, notably product quality/performance requirements. A definitive link between waning exports and the prevalence of NTMs could not be established, thus signalling the need for more in-depth research.