Exports of food and drink from Spain reached €19 billion last year, a 9.5 per cent increase compared to the previous year, while imports of food and drink products increased by 9.4 per cent to reach €17.6 billion, but more can still be done to improve the balance of trade in this sector.
According to the latest figures from the Spanish Food and Drink Industry Association (FIAB), fresh fruit and vegetables remained the most important Spanish food export, accounting for 35 per cent of total sales, followed by the drinks sector (essentially wines), seafood, canned vegetables, olive oil, meat products and other oils.
The EU was Spain's biggest market, accounting for more than 70 per cent of sales for the fourth year in succession, helped by EU regulations limiting imports of perishable products from third countries. France, Germany, Portugal, Italy and the UK were the leading European markets for Spanish food and drink products, while the US, Japan, Switzerland, Russia and Poland were the main importers from outside the 15 Member States.
Looking further ahead, Horacio Gonzalez, director of the international operations division at FIAB, told Europa Press that the current uncertainties in many markets, aggravated by the strengthening of the euro against the dollar, meant that the short term prospects for the food and drink industry were not fantastic, but no real cause for panic.
"It is wrong to talk about a crisis, and if we start talking about it as such we will end up creating the crisis ourselves," he said, stressing that what was needed was more international promotions to strengthen awareness of Spanish products in foreign markets.
One such promotion, targeting the core markets of the US, Brazil and Japan, is being organised by FIAB with the help of funding from the EU and the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture. A total of 213 small and medium-sized companies from 10 autonomous communities across Spain are taking part in the programme, called 'European food: flavour, safety, quality', which is designed to introduce consumers in the three target markets to the high quality of EU foodstuffs through promotions in supermarkets, product sampling, trade shows and advertising.
A group of around 30 importers from the three countries will meet with Spanish food producers in Madrid during the coming week as part of an exercise organized by FIAB designed to facilitate export agreements.