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13 December 2022

The Spanish meat sector targets foreign markets

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7 min.
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Spain is one of the countries with one of the richest traditions in the preparation and consumption of meats and the most varied meat products.

The diversity of our production, which extends to all corners of the country, forms part of our cultural and gastronomic heritage, and is appreciated both within and beyond our borders.

But together with this appreciable level of domestic consumption of meats and all types of processed products, the Spanish meat industry has for years been developing internationalization strategies that have placed it in leading positions in international markets, especially in the case of pork production. In fact, Spain has already consolidated its position as the third largest pork producer (4.8% of world production), behind only China (which alone produces 44.3% of the world's pork) and the USA (11.7%), and ahead of Germany (4.6%), Brazil (4.1%), Russia, Vietnam, Canada, France and Poland, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

In the other species, the Spanish sector is also developing its production in general terms, with a significant part of these destined for foreign markets. Thus, Spain represents 10.6% of European beef production, behind France (20.9%), Germany (15.8%) and Italy (11.0%).

In turn, in sheep, Spain is now the leading EU producer, with 28.5% of the total and ahead of France (19.1%), Greece (15.0%) and Ireland (13.8%). As for poultry meat, Spain is the third largest producer in the EU (12.4%), behind Poland (18.9%) and France (12.5%). And in rabbit meat, our country is positioned, together with France and Italy, as one of the main producers in the EU, with these three countries accounting for more than 85% of European production. Finally, as regards the production of processed meat products, it should be pointed out that Spain, with more than 1.4 million tons per year, is in fourth place in the European Union, behind Germany, Italy and France.

With this production potential, the Spanish meat industry continues to gain positions year after year in the international meat and meat products market, consolidating its role as a reference exporting power, with a commercial presence in numerous markets around the world.

Thus, last year, with a complex national and international scenario that continued to be marked by covid-19, the meat industry continued its export expansion, reaching a new annual record, with 3.24 million tons of meat and offal and 212,443 tons of processed products (5.6% more than the previous year), sold in markets around the world for a value of 9,107 million euros, practically 5% more than the previous year. This represented a very positive trade balance of 712%, a figure that highlights the importance of this sector for the economy and the global progress of our country.

Spain, the world's third largest pork exporter

The pork sector has already established itself on the podium of the world's largest exporters, along with the United States and Germany. In 2021, 2,213,707 tons of pork were exported, worth 5,572 million euros, representing a growth of 5.3% in volume and a small decline of 1.4% in value, the result of the price squeeze caused by the situation of extremely high competition in the markets. The situation of production and demand in China, due to the African swine fever that affected the country's pork sector, had a decisive influence on the more moderate performance of Spanish exporting companies. At the same time, 674,180 tons of offal and fat of this species were exported, an increase of 4.4% over the previous year.

Non-EU markets continued to consolidate as the main destination for pork meat, offal and fat exports, already representing 65.7% of foreign sales, and with an increase of 7.9% over 2020, according to data collected by ICEX's Datacomex database. Sales to our EU partners remained practically stable in volume, although with a significant drop of 9.1% in turnover. As indicated, China was the country that imported the most Spanish pork, representing 39% of total exports, but with a 10% decrease in volume compared to 2020. In total, the Asian giant acquired pork meat, offal and fats worth 2,782 million euros.

Increases in imports from Spain were recorded in France (+2.1%), the Philippines (+20.1%), Poland (+111%), the Czech Republic (+12%), the United Kingdom (+97%) and Bulgaria (+3.4%). On the other hand, sales to other relevant destinations, besides China, fell, such as Italy (-8.5%), Portugal (-1.2%), Japan (-6.4%), South Korea (-7%) and Germany (-19%).

Cattle, sheep, poultry and rabbits are progressing well

In the case of beef, the balance of exports was particularly positive in terms of value, with an estimated figure of 936 million euros and 16.8% growth over the previous year (869 million in meat), as in volume (244,000 tons, up 5.9%), including 36,916 tons of offal and fats for an amount of 67.6 million euros. In this species, sales to third countries are still in the take-off phase, accounting for 12.2% of turnover and 13.5% of tons. The main destination countries in the EU, in terms of volume, were Portugal (68,554 tons, -6.6%), Italy (40,627 tons, +5.4%), France (29,660 tons, +5.4%) and the Netherlands (26,557 tons, +18.1%). As for third countries, the first destination was Canada with a growth in exports of +4.7% to 16.4 million euros, followed by Indonesia, with 14.9 million (+45.9%) and Morocco (9.9 million, +30%).

Data for 2021 show a rise in both exports and imports of poultry meat, maintaining a positive trade balance, as exports continued to exceed imports. Community sales accounted for 63.5%, especially to France, Germany, Poland and the Netherlands. South Africa continued to be, for yet another year, the top destination for our exports to third countries in 2021, followed by the United Kingdom and Benin. This year, a total of 284,669 tons were exported, representing a significant increase of 16.75% over 2020.

As for sheep, 54,040 tons of meat and 20,452 tons of offal were exported, with a total value of €294.5 million, a spectacular 44.8% higher than what was achieved in 2020. Almost three quarters of the value of these exports (73.9%) corresponded to sales in the European Union, essentially France, Germany and the Netherlands, which grew very significantly in 2021, together with excellent progress in non-EU markets such as Israel, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Oman.

For their part, rabbit meat exports also experienced a significant increase, with 37.8% more than in 2020, reaching 9,644 tons exported. The increase is mainly due to an increase in shipments to Portugal and Italy, which are by far the main customers. The EU accounts for 91.5% of exports.

In processed products, exports in 2021 were 212,443 tons (+6.5%) and €1,280 million (+12.6%), a positive evolution but undoubtedly still with a long way to go for our higher quality and therefore differential and higher value-added products.

Exports of cured sausages reached 73,177 tons (+10%) in this period, for a value of 479.5 million euros (+10.8%), with information collected by Anice. On the other hand, exports of cured hams and shoulders totaled 66,440 tons (+7.3%) for a value of 600.3 million euros (+16.8%). With respect to cooked products, an increase compared to 2020 was observed in shipments of cooked hams and shoulders (6,084 tons, +30.7% and 31.8 M€, +41.6%), and cooked sausages (10,340 tons, +1.8%, and 38.4 M€, +1.7%). On the other hand, shipments of other products (including meat preparations and canned meat) decreased compared to the previous year, with 55,499 tons (-2.4%) for a value of 138.5 million euros (-1.5%).

Sales to European countries accounted for 67.4% of the value and 74.2% of total exports in processed products, with France leading the way, with a 24% share of our exports, followed by Germany (12%) and Portugal (8%), as well as the United Kingdom (10%), now a non-EU market.

2022 is not a good year

In the absence of completing the data for the full year, the information available from CEXGAN indicates that the evolution of exports 2022 is undergoing a significant correction with respect to the reality of recent years reflected above. Thus, with information updated to the month of October, the total export of meats and preparations has fallen by 18% in volume, with decreases of 18% in pork, 8.4% in beef, 13% in sheep/goat and 33% in poultry. It will be necessary to wait until the end of the year to see if the last months of the year will temper these declines to some extent.