With a 7.8 per cent share of the €45 billion food and drink export market, Russia is now the number three customer for the 25 European member states, find new statistics from Eurostat.
Once again, the US tops the table as the EU's number one customer, dominating 22 per cent - over €10 billion - of exports. Although this does disguise the stagnation in US sales since 2002.
Beverages take the lion's share, with a 33 per cent slice - €13.6 billion - of the €45 billion export market. Distilled alcoholic beverages brought in €5.1 billion of this chunk, and wine the rest.
According to Eurostat, 'other food products', such as biscuits, pastries, chocolate and sugar confectionery products, with 25 per cent fell closely behind as the second biggest area of exports. In 2004 the EU shipped off €11.3 billion worth of these foods.
Meanwhile, the export of the meat sector grew significantly in 2004, reaching the 2000 level with €5.46 billion.
Dairy and ice cream products accumulated €5.4 billion in exports, animal, vegetable oils and fats €2.3 billion, and starches/starch products and grain mill products €1.8 billion.
With 8 per cent growth in 2004, imports from third countries reached € 41 billion in 2004. The growth rate is twice that of exports (4 per cent) but the EU remained a net exporter of foodstuffs with a positive balance of more than €4 billion.
Despite the high oil prices and the rise in value of the Euro, the EU food and drink industry benefited from growth in trade and output in several countries.
But the trade surplus followed the 2003 downwards trend and have decreased by 37 per cent since 2002.
Underlining strong economic activity, the statistics show significant increases of imports from Asean (Southeast Asian nations), up 37 per cent and the Mediterranean countries, 21 per cent.
Imports from Brazil and Argentina, the two main EU suppliers, resumed their increase in 2004, after stagnation in 2003.
Together, they account for one fifth of total EU food and drink imports.