Data dashboard

Who led food trade during the height of the pandemic?

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

Who claimed the title of top food trading country in the world in 2020? Credit: Getty/imaginima
Who claimed the title of top food trading country in the world in 2020? Credit: Getty/imaginima

Related tags Food security Transport

An analysis of the world’s most imported and exported food groups identified the US as the world’s food trading leader during the first year of the pandemic, with the UK ranking eighth.

Global fintech company, IG, has conducted an in-depth analysis of the world’s most exported food groups during the first year of the Covid pandemic (2020). Here are the results…

The US leads in food import and exports

According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the top 10 countries food trading countries in 2020 were:

  1. United States
  2. China
  3. Germany
  4. The Netherlands
  5. France
  6. Brazil
  7. Italy
  8. UK
  9. Spain
  10. Canada

Among those, IG found that the US had imported and exported the highest trade value of food commodities at US$294.3bn in 2020, with China hot on its heels at $260bn. 

Meanwhile, the UK recorded $87 billion worth of food imports and exports. However, its export value was noticeably low at a value of $26.7 billion, meaning it ran a significant food trade deficit, or a negative trade balance of $62 billion.

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Top 10 food trading companies. Credit: IG (
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Global import and export quantities. Credit: IG (

Most traded food across the globe

The FAO data for 2020 showed that the most imported food were bananas at 25.5m units.

The US was the highest importer of the fruit with 4.7m units at an import monetary value of $2.55bn.  

Olive oil saw a lower import quantity at 2.6 million units, likely due to shortages that year.  The results showed that both Italy and the US imported the most olive oil, while Spain and Italy exported the most among all countries polled.   

According to the provided statistics on commodity imports, the UK has a notable presence as an importer across several sectors, ranking among the top importer for honey, beer of barley, tea leaves, cheese and wine (see table below - credit: IG​)

What’s next?

The United Nations food agency's world price index​ is continuing to fall each month, dropping by 1.4% between May and June 2023. And although food prices have been declining since March 2022, IG analyst Axel Rudolph believes that food in general “will remain more expensive than it was before”.

This, he says, is a result of producers, restaurants and supermarkets looking to make the most of their now higher profit margins in a bid to make up for losses during the pandemic.


Top 3 Importers 


  1. US
  2. Germany
  3. UK


  1. Germany
  2. Italy
  3. UK

Beer of barley

  1. US
  2. UK
  3. France

Tea Leaves 

  1. Pakistan
  2. Russia
  3. UK


  1. UK
  2. Germany
  3. US

Related topics Supply Chain Operations COVID-19

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