Spain largest exporter of agri-food in the EU

by Lorraine Williamson
Agri-food exports from Spain

MADRID – Spain’s agri-food sector experienced another record year for exports and trade in 2020. A report by Spanish bank Cajamar shows a trade surplus of €17.8 billion: an increase of some 30% compared to 2019. 

The report contains a detailed analysis of the main agri-food export sectors, namely fruit and vegetables, pork, olive oil and wine. Last year, despite gloomy forecasts, the growth rate of agri-food exports was 4.3%. Over the past ten years, exports in this sector grew by more than 4%, with the exception of 2018. In six of the last ten years, growth even exceeded 6%, which, according to author of the report and food expert Jaime Palafox, is ‘a testament to the sector’s export success over this period’. 

Contrast in agri-food exports

The balance of trade surplus has increased almost sixfold in just ten years, with the food sector’s sales to foreign countries rising to over €53billion in 2020, a new record. 

These figures contrast with the sharp 11.4% drop in total exports of goods from the Spanish economy caused by the pandemic. Spain’s main market remains the European Union, but exports to other countries have tripled since 2010. Both the pork products and fruit and vegetables sectors continue to grow. The increase in pork sales (22%) is spectacular, while the growth in fruit and vegetable sales is stable at 5%. The wine and olive oil categories showed a downward trend of -3% and -6% respectively. 

Spain highest growth exporter of agri-food within the EU 

Spain’s exports of agri-food products grew the fastest of all the major countries in the European Union. Germany (-1.2%) and France (-3.9%) had to contend with a drop in their foreign sales last year, while the Netherlands (0.5%) and Italy (2.1%) grew less than Spain. As a result, Spain retains its fourth place, behind the Netherlands, Germany and France, and ahead of Italy, but with the highest growth.  

Fruit and vegetables 

Spain is the largest exporter of fruit and vegetables within the EU, and shows a better development than the other European countries. The EU accounts for 92% of sales from Spain, a percentage higher than that of its Dutch, Italian and French competitors.  

Spanish pork is sought after in China 

In 2020, the EU countries together exported nearly 5.5 million tonnes of pork to countries outside the union. More than 60% of this went to China, which has started to import considerably more pork because African swine fever devastated a large part of the domestic pig population. 

Spain has benefited from this: exports of pork products to China increased by 72%. Its sales have doubled in 2020 compared to 2019. Pork accounts for more than 85% of total agri-food sales to this country, the most requested product from the Chinese consumer is fresh, chilled or frozen meat, accounting for a million tons.

Spain overtakes Germany

Spain has also been in the lead within the European Union since last year in terms of exports of pork products. It has overtaken Germany, after spectacular growth over the past ten years, at an average annual rate of 12%. 

Other products that Spain sells to the Asian country include, olive oil, wine and frozen fish. Spain also tops the global list for organic olive oil and wine exports.

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