Spain’s pork industry is renowned worldwide for its quality and the care that is taken in producing its pork products. That quality and care has made the country the world’s biggest exporter of pork products, and the seventh largest exporter of meat products.
Whilst that might be cause for celebration, the view is not supported by the Minister of Consumption Alberto Garzón, who has in the past called for Spaniards to reduce the amount of pork they eat. In particular he believes that concentrated pig farming in Spain has contributed to pollution and a general image of poor farming practices.
In the words of the minister farms “pollute the soil, pollute the water and export low-quality meat from abused animals.”
Besides the obvious taste that Spaniards have for pork, the industry carries significant weight being a valuable earner of foreign exchange and a major contributor to government coffers. Total exports of meat products in 2021 topped 8,500 million euros with more than 7,500 million of that coming from the export of pork. According to the International Trade Centre (ITC) that’s around 7% of the world’s turnover in meat products originated in Spain.
Preliminary data suggests that exports fell marginally during 2021, however it still remains Spain’s 9th largest export industry accounting for around 3% of turnover in exports. Although the number fell last year, it is still significantly up on prior years due to demand from China.
China accounts for nearly 40% of Spain’s meat exports with 11.5% going to France, 7.7% to Portugal and 6.9% to Italy. The industry is a net exporter shipping seven times what it imports.
The main markets of Spain abroad are the Asian giant, where 37.1% of the sales of meat products go, France (11.5%), Portugal (7.7%), Italy (6.9% ) and Japan (5.4%). Furthermore, the trade balance is clearly favorable for Spain , since it exports seven times more value of meat than it buys abroad.
Surprisingly the export of Spain’s most famous pork product, cured pork ham legs and shoulders, remains fairly low accounting for a little under 120 million euros. Here the mot important buyers are France, Germany, Portugal and the United States.
By comparison beef exports accounted for 718 million euros in 2021, offal 722 million, poultry 345 million, sheep and goat 242 million, and animal fats 160 million.
Catalonia is the largest producer in Spain with 6.6 million pigs followed by Aragon with 5.5 million animals, making them the third and sixth place largest producers of meat in the EU. Andalusia is the undisputed leader in goats and cattle (947,000 head) and Catalonia, in rabbit farming with 362,100 head.
The fact that Spain is the world’s biggest exporter of pork does create a dilemma for the government with the need to balance exports with environmental concerns. What is clear though is that demand for the product remains strong both locally and abroad and is unlikely to diminish anytime soon.
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