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17 January 2022

Added value, a key factor in the growth of meat product exports in 2021

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Sales of domestic meat products abroad showed growth in value over the last year, although at a much slower rate than in previous years. Particularly noteworthy is the increase in sales of high-quality products, such as cured ham, chorizo, and other cured and processed products. The sector is looking to the Middle East and Asia to boost exports and diversify its market portfolio. Especially after the recovery of domestic production in China, which currently accounts for 30% of Spanish meat sales abroad.

Spanish high value-added meat products are increasingly appreciated outside our borders. This is demonstrated by the sector's export data, which in recent months reflect a more marked increase in sales of this type of product than in those of lower price. According to the latest figures provided by Icex, which detail exports between January and October 2021, the meat category of hams and shoulders is the one showing the greatest growth. In these ten months, Spanish companies have sold pieces worth 414.9 M€, 13.9% more than in the same period of 2020.

There has also been double-digit growth in processed meat products - specifically 11% - and, within this category, chorizo, and other cured products. The increase in sales of this subgroup was 11.5%, with a total value of 470.6 M€ between January and October 2021, compared to 422.1 M€ in the same months of the previous year. The growth of this type of products is not only positive because of the higher income it brings, but also because of the quality associated with them, which makes it "more difficult for Spain to be replaced by local producers," says Maria Naranjo, director of food industry of Icex.

The export of frozen meat and offal continues to be the highest revenue contributor, with 4,324.5 M€ in the first 10 months of 2021 and a year-on-year growth of 12.6%. All types of animal meat grew in double digits, except for goat meat, which fell by 9.7%. The only category of products that reduced the value of exports were those of the fresh segment, which had a turnover 2.5% less in the year to October 2020 (€2,371 million compared to €2,432.6 million). The fall is particularly noticeable in the pork product, which is down by 13.4%.

Between January and October 2021, the export of meat products reported a value of 7,981.9 M€, 7.52% more than in the same months of 2020. It is true that growth has moderated compared to the 12 months of last year, when €9,145.9 M in meat sales in international markets and a 17% boom compared to 2019. But it is also worth noting that all actors in the meat and agri-food chain agree that 2020 was an "exceptional" year, boosted by different circumstances in the international context.

Depending on China

The behavior of China as an importer of Spanish meat products has been the main cause of the boost in foreign sales in recent years. This has been especially true for pork, although in 2021 the trend has slowed sharply. The Spanish meat sector has benefited, for several years, from the expansion of African swine fever (ASF) both in the Chinese market and in other supplier countries. On the one hand, the affectation of the animal disease in local farms has forced the Asian giant to import greater quantities of product. On the other hand, imports into China from other European nations, such as Germany, Poland and Romania, have been reduced by this same cause, which has boosted meat purchases from other suppliers. Among them, Spain.

However, this disease has subsided during 2021 and China has recovered a certain normality in its meat sector, which has led to a slowdown in the growth of foreign product. As far as Spanish companies are concerned, exports of fresh, frozen and processed pork to the Asian nation have increased by 3% up to October, while during 2020 growth was 118%. It is noteworthy that cured and processed products lead this rise, raising their value by over 88% (hams and shoulders) and 30% (chorizos, other processed and canned products).

The challenge of expanding the market

At present, the five main recipient countries of national meat products account for 62.7% of exports. China is the leading market for national exports, with 30.7% of the total. It is followed by France (12.5%); Portugal (8.1%); Italy (5.9%); and Japan (5.5%). Both companies and organizations in the sector consider the expansion of international trade as "one of the main challenges" they face, either by increasing market share in the countries where Spanish meat arrives, or by diversifying destinations. And in this sense, the joint commitment on the part of the Administration -establishing contacts and agreements-, the interprofessional organizations -promoting the product- and the companies themselves -adapting to international regulations and betting on exports- is key.

An example of this is the Philippines, a new destination for Spanish beef exports. In February 2021, the government of this country published the list of the first 21 companies based in Spain approved to sell their products in the archipelago. Since then, €3.4 million worth of beef and beef products have been exported. Spain also exports pork products to the Philippines, whose cumulative value up to October 2021 has tripled. In fact, it is the country with the highest growth in turnover: it has contributed €216.4 million to foreign sales of meat products in Spain up to October, an increase of 185%. It is the ninth country in terms of export share in value (2.7%).

The meat interprofessional are promoting different promotional, information and contact campaigns for different markets. One of them is 'What a wonderful European beef', promoted in Spain by Provacuno, 80% co-financed by the European Union and which in 2021 has started its second edition, focused on Japan, Vietnam, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The poultry sector is strengthening its international efforts towards Asian countries, such as Thailand, while the Chorizo Consortium is promoting this product, above all, on the European continent.