The EU cereals sector: Main features, challenges and prospects
Food and agriculture systems are central to the well-being of humanity. When considering food security, these systems are needed not just to provide safe, healthy food but also livelihoods and incomes to many farmers.
These same systems are integral to rural and economic development. Core to the food security objective is the production of cereals across the globe to meet the increasing demands for food, animal feed and biofuels. In the EU, the cereals sector accounted for approximately 11 % of the total output value of agricultural production in 2016, third in line after the vegetable/horticultural and the dairy sectors. It is an important sector for many Member States, particularly the northern ones, where it is well developed.
All Member States produce some combination of cereal crops. The EU cereals sector is facing challenges not only structurally but also financially and climatically. Developments in the policy framework as evidenced by the new common agricultural policy (CAP) proposals as well as advances in scientific and technological spheres, such as plant breeding and digitalisation, point the way to a more efficient sector.
Yet, the sectoral challenges are many. The process of CAP reform for the post-2020 period promising a new delivery model and strategic plans is a departure from the known. World agricultural markets face new uncertainties that, on the supply side, include regulatory responses to new plant breeding techniques and responses to the increasing likelihood of extreme climatic events.
The cereals sector is one operating in a farming environment trying to combat the loss of plant protection products previously relied upon, and in a world coming to terms with how to make the Paris Agreement a reality. These challenges will all influence the profitability and survivability of the sector.