With almost 14.849 billion euros exported, the agri-food sector demonstrates its resilience in the context of international instability and rising inflation and food and energy prices

One out of every seven euros exported by Catalonia comes from agri-food exports (15.64%), which consolidates the agri-food sector as the engine of the Catalan economy and reinforces its role as the driving force for Catalan exports as a whole

All agri-food sectors grew in value except for the fruit and vegetable sector (-4.35%)

This morning, the Ministry of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda presented the data on Catalan agri-food exports for the year 2022, based on data made public by the AEAT (Spanish Tax Administration Agency). The value of Catalonia’s exports exceeded 14 billion euros for the first time (€14.849 billion), a 15.3% increase in value compared to the figures for 2021. The decrease in volume (-4.23%) was due to the impact of the low production in the fruit and vegetable sector (for climate reasons) and in cereals and flour milling products (directly affected by the conflict in Ukraine and used in 2022 for self-consumption). Indeed, these two sectors aside, the volume of exports in the agri-food sector remained stable (+0.17%). Even so, this is lower than the national average (-6.01%) and in line with that of the EU.

“Catalan food products are in demand beyond our borders and more and more Catalan companies are in a position to offer products of the highest quality that compete on an equal footing with a highly demanding global supply”, said the Catalan Minister for Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda, Teresa Jordà, during the presentation of the data. “These data show that Catalonia is an exporting power in food and beverages at the international level, ahead of countries such as Portugal, Greece, Peru, Colombia, Sweden and Japan”.

The agri-food sector drives Catalan exports as a whole and remains the engine of the Catalan economy (with a value of €43.1 billion, the sector represents 19.2% of Catalan GDP). Proof of this is that one out of every seven euros exported by Catalonia comes from agri-food exports (15.64%). Currently, Catalonia’s foreign sales of agri-food products are equivalent to 6.47% of Catalonia’s GDP.

Catalonia maintains the agri-food trade surplus it achieved for the first time in 2019, with a coverage rate of 104.86% in 2022, thanks, in part, to the improved efficiency and competitive improvement of companies in the sector.

Catalonia once again leads Spain’s agri-food foreign trade and exports foodstuffs above the average for Spain as a whole (+13.20%) and for the EU as a whole (+11.82%). Sales of Catalan agri-food products abroad in 2022 represent almost a quarter of Spain’s total agri-food exports, 22.18%.

The sectors consolidate their volume-to-value trend

Based on the Index of the Agri-food Export Promoter (Prodeca), which regroups various subheadings of the TARIC code into 7 sub-sectors to simplify the analysis of agri-food exports, all sectors grew in value except for the fruit and vegetable sector (-4.35%), due to the drop in production caused by last year’s frosts. The sectors with the highest exports continue to be meat and fine food, which represent 35.25% and 28.70%, respectively.

Meat increased its value by 13.88% and has become less dependent on the Chinese market, diversifying into other markets. China continues to be the main destination for Catalan pork, although it reduced its global imports by 53% and those from Catalonia by 35% of Catalan. The volume of exported pork (61.78% of the meat sector) remained almost the same (-0.39%), while its value increased (+11.54%). Sausages and processed products grew significantly, both in volume (+14.15%) and in value (+22.98%).

The fine foodsector remains the second largest with a turnover of €4.276 billion, 18.42% more than in 2021, with an increase in volume of 3.65%.

Vegetable oils occupy third place, overtaking fruit and vegetables as the fourth largest export sector. In this segment, olive oil stands out, representing 35.61% of the value of this sector, with an increase of 38.66% in value and of 12.42% in volume, positively influenced by sales to the United States, where Catalonia has managed to recover its leading position in the oil market after overcoming the effects of the tariffs.

The volume of exported cereals and flour milling products fell (-10.63%) due to the lack of cereals as a result of the conflict in Ukraine (the little cereal that is normally exported has been used, in general, for self-consumption). Nevertheless, their value increased by 20.98% due to the growth in sales of seeds, which represent more than 77% of the cereal and flour milling sector’s exports, both in value (77.06%) and volume (77.10%).

The wine and cava sector as a whole grew by 1.97% in value despite a 2.77% decrease in volume (the EU average volume decrease was 8.67%; France’s export volume fell by 9.97% while Italy’s fell by 7.41%).

Cava, for its part, consolidated its position as the driving force of the sector with 50.34% of the value and 55.09% of the volume exported and grew by 5.11% in value and 6.75% in volume. Wine, on the other hand, fell by -3.23% in value and -17.38% in volume due to the decline in the two main destination markets, the UK and the US, which represent more than 28%.

The fish and seafood sector consolidated its upward trend and grew for the second consecutive year (13.52% in value and 15.39% in volume).

Catalonia exports food and beverage products to almost 200 countries

The number of countries to which these products are exported remains stable (198). France continues to be the leading destination, while Italy is now the second largest recipient, surpassing China, in third position, followed by Germany, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

The EU continues to receive practically half of Catalan agri-food exports (55.85%), with a growth of 20.06%. The rest of the exports (44.15%) are destined for third markets. There were significant increases in the regions of Latin America (39.03%), North America (28.47%), the Middle East (23.66%) and Oceania (60.01%), as well as slight decreases in Africa (-1.34%) and Asia (-0.37%).

In terms of the number of exporting companies in the agri-food sector, Catalonia has 4.9% more regular exporters (those that have accumulated at least 4 consecutive years of sales abroad), reaching 2,905 (+130 companies).

The agri-food sector is committed to internationalisation

The agri-food sector has demonstrated its major strength as an exporter in recent years and is the only economic sector that has maintained sustained growth in international sales, overcoming the various adversities that have affected international trade. The Catalan agri-food industry remains Catalonia’s third largest export sector, behind semi-finished goods and capital goods, with which it has been closing the gap.

In the last 10 years, Catalan agri-food exports have grown by 89.88% in value and 28.40% in volume, demonstrating their competitiveness in foreign markets due to their added value.

“The internationalisation of agri-food and exports works as a driver for the primary market, as the processing industry looks for local products of value for the most demanding markets”, said Carmel Mòdol, Secretary for Food at the Ministry of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda. “The Ministry, through Prodeca, is committed to agri-food trade as a tool for the economic and social development of the region and its people. In this sense, we value very positively the commitment to strengthen the network of satellites and delegations in strategic markets to continue generating opportunities in the sector”.

Prodeca, at the service of Catalan companies

The presentation was also an opportunity to take stock of Prodeca’s actions in 2022 in the field of international trade. The organisation ended the year with more than 60 international commercial activities, including participation in international trade fairs, business meetings, point-of-sale promotions, commercial catalogues, ‘Catalan Food’ promotional activities and a Business Forum, with the registration of 1,700 companies and a loyalty ratio of nearly 50% (half of the companies supported by Prodeca repeated at one or more events).

“The Ministry, through Prodeca, has provided services to one out of every four companies in the sector, diversifying services and types of actions, focusing significantly on business meetings: last year we organised more than 750 B2B meetings between Catalan producers and international buyers from more than 15 markets. We have reinforced the presence of commercial agents in strategic markets, always with the aim of accompanying Catalan agri-food companies in the process of promoting themselves internationally”, said the managing director of Prodeca, Ramon Sentmartí.

In line with the purpose of providing guidance to agri-food companies in their international expansion, Prodeca has consolidated the support of companies directly in the destination markets, with professionals with experience in the sector, both in Catalonia and in the destination country. In 2022, the organisation set up a network through Government delegations and satellite stations in strategic markets to strengthen the advice and support given to companies wishing to set up or consolidate their presence in these countries, especially in Mexico, Germany, the United States, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Eurasia, China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore.

For 2023, Prodeca will focus its plan of action on 13 target markets, strategic countries that currently account for more than half of the world’s food consumption and with a growth potential of more than 13% over the next three years. These markets are Brazil, China, Colombia, Germany, Ghana, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United States and the countries of the Mediterranean basin. Prodeca plans to reinforce its projects in these markets and carry out specific commercial activities, including the organisation of the Catalan Food Business Forum to be held in Barcelona from 12 to 14 June.

Another new initiative is the launch of the Agri-Food Exports Barometer, a tool for the quarterly monitoring of the most relevant business indicators on export activity in the Catalan agri-food sector. The publication of the first results of the Barometer is scheduled for the beginning of April and will include the main data on the activity, products and destinations of Catalan agri-food companies for the first quarter of 2023. The Barometer will include qualitative data from a panel of 100 representative companies and will complement the quantitative results of export data for the sector as a whole.