Catalan agri-food exports up 4.02% in the first half of 2019, year on year

  • Exports of food and drinks also increased by 1.7% in volume from January to June 2019.
  • This overall growth is relevant given the slowdown in world trade and European economies.
  • Although weak foreign markets and global uncertainty in 2018 bucked the upwards trend seen in previous years, the Catalan agri-food sector is performing well and 2019 should be a strong year.


According to provisional data from Datacomex, agri-food exports from Catalonia rose by 4.02% in value and 1.7% in volume between January and June 2019 compared to the same period in the previous year. These exports account for 19.42% of the total for Spain.

If we compare this with the same period in 2017 (January to June), a year when exports were slightly higher than 2018, we find that Catalan agri-food exports are now 0.85% higher in value and 0.41% lower in volume.

The agri-food sub-sectors with above average growth in value are meat (10.74%), due partly to demand from China, and fine food (5.90%). Sub-sectors with below average growth are fruit and vegetables (3.68%) and cereals, grain mill products and seeds (2.94%).

Conversely, there has been a downturn in fish and seafood (-13.89%), wine (-10.57%) and vegetable oils (-8.19%).

Comparing the sector to other industries in Catalonia, agri-food has caught up to the automotive industry, with which it is now competing to become the top export sector, currently the chemical and capital goods sectors.


China, a rapidly growing destination market 

Although the main destination markets remain the same (France, Italy, Germany, Portugal and the United Kingdom), China is now the sixth-largest destination market, with Catalan agri-food exports increasing by 58.29% in value. This is largely due to the demand for meat as a result of the African swine fever outbreak that has devastated Asia since late 2018.

There has also been a 7.98% increase in Catalan agri-food exports to Japan, now in seventh place, and by 30.69% to Taiwan, although this is not one of the main destinations in Asia. At the other end of the spectrum, exports to Hong Kong - which also account for only a small proportion - have fallen by 31.31%.

The US is the eighth-largest market for Catalan agri-food exports, with a rise of 1.27%. However, the Trump administration's protectionist measures and a possible increase on tariffs on European products are expected to bring this figure down by the end of the year, affecting sectors such as fruit, especially citrus fruits, nuts, and frozen fish, among others. 

Turning to the Latin American market, Mexico is the main importer of Catalan agri-food products, which have risen by 4.43%. In Brazil, however, there was an 11% decrease.

It is also worth noting that virtually all African markets are growing significantly as destination countries, despite a low baseline: DRC - 188%, Kenya - 152%, Senegal - 98% and Nigeria - 80%.

Conversely, exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates fell by 26% and 14% respectively.


Coverage: now with trade surplus

Import-export coverage is an economic indicator which, in combination with increase in value, shows how competitive and commercially attractive Catalan companies are, in addition to their productive and exporting capacity.

In June 2019, Catalonia had coverage of 101.09; i.e. exports of agri-food products (€4.964 Bn) were slightly higher than imports (€4.911 Bn). This means that for the first time we have a trade surplus in agri-food, although whether this continues in the second half of the year remains to be seen. 


Agri-food exports up in value 

Catalonia is clearly leveraging the value of its agri-food products on foreign markets: while the volume exported in the last ten years has increased by 45.08%, the value is 64.76% greater. In the last five years, value has grown at almost twice the rate of volume.

The value/volume ratio in 2019 (January to June) is up 2.28% year on year, showing that we are gaining more value from our product sales.

With regard to the value increase by sub-sector, Catalan agri-food products are generating greater revenues in 2019 compared to 2018, particularly the following: cereals (48.33%), oilseeds (28.75%), coffee, tea and spices (18.06%), fruit and vegetable preserves (17.18%), grain mill products (11.29%), meat (7.03%), dairy (5.8%), confectionery (4.23%) and cocoa and cocoa products (3.88%).


Meat and fine food: drivers of agri-food exports

Meat remains the top agri-food export sector (36.33%), having increased by 10.74% in value and 5.50% in volume. Pork is the most exported meat, accounting for 23.66% of all agri-food exports (65.12% of the meat sector), and with growth of 16.74% in value and 5.02% in volume. Beef, which represents 4.05% of the sub-sector, is the meat product with the greatest growth (39.6% in value and 36.2% in volume).

In second place are fine food products, which account for 30.64% of total exports in value and have risen by 5.9% in value and 1.35% in volume. This sector primarily comprises the following categories: bakery and pastry products (10.76% of all fine food), cocoa and cocoa products (8.40%), cereal-based products (7.38%), coffee (7.07%), extracts, flavours and concentrates (7%), confectionery (7.07%), dairy products (6.44%), vegetable juices (4.20%), jams and confits (4.35%), water (2.24%), beer (2.76%), fruit juices (2.01%), nuts (5.58%).

Oils are the third most exported (overtaking fruit and vegetables in 2018), with 6.85%. Although there was an 8.19% drop in value, the increase in volume was 19.4%.

The current exporting capacity of the fruit sector puts it in fourth place (6.59%). It achieved an increase of 3.68% in value and of 8.82% in volume.

Wine and cava, the fifth sector, accounted for 5.14% of Catalan exports. Exports decreased by 10.57% in value and by 4.86% in volume compared to the same period of 2018.

Cereals, grain mill products and seeds accounted for 3.81%, with an increase of 2.94% in value, despite a sharp decrease in volume of 19.36%.

The fish and seafood sector, in sixth position, represents 2.52% of agri-food exports, having fallen by 13.89% in value and 14.43% by volume, despite showing the best value/volume ratio.


Datacomex - AEAT, Eurostat, INE - Idescat, EIE - DIRCE
The Prodeca Knowledge and Strategy Department


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