The European Commission has predicted that China will become an ever-more important export market for EU food producers.

In 2006 China had a US$6.1bn agricultural trade deficit, the Commission said. With "imports expected to grow faster than exports", this is expected to increase over the next 10 years and will be financed by the nation's huge trade surplus in manufactured non-food goods, the Commission predicted.

The report highlighted the food sectors likely to grow benefit most from this trend.

"China is today the world's largest soybean importer (at 44% of global imports in 2006) and this is projected to grow to 57% within 10 years," it stressed.

It predicted that "strong demand [will push] up net imports of butter, cheese and skimmed milk powder over the decade, albeit from relatively low levels."