Catalan food exports break records

Sector exceeds €12bn for the first time, up 12%, despite logistics bottlenecks and energy crisis

2 min
Archival image of pigs at a farm in Ventalló

BarcelonaCatalan exports' record-breaking year continues, as one of the country's leading economic sectors announced its figures. Foreign sales of agri-food products exceeded €12bn for the first time last year, according to data shared this Monday by Prodeca, Promotora dels Aliments Catalans. Specifically, this industry exported €12.9bn, 12% more than in 2020, when the pandemic slowed growth of foreign trade. The Generalitat's Secretary of Food, Carmel Mòdol, has celebrated these record figures and, above all, that they have been achieved in a complicated context. "The agri-food sector is irrefutably consolidated as a driving force of the Catalan economy, despite the geopolitical context, the energy crises and the end of the pandemic," he said.

Meat, the product that Catalonia exports the most, once again topped the ranking, but ended the year with practically flat growth. The main reason is the recovery of the Chinese market, which in recent years had increased Catalan imports as a result of African swine fever crisis that affected the country crisis affecting China. Sales in China fell by 22% in 2021, although the sector compensated for the drop with sales to other Asian countries such as the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan or Japan. "Catalonia has had the ability to adapt to the needs of other markets despite the drop in China," Mòdol added.

Catalonia's first food export market continues to be France (with 21%), followed by China (14%) and Italy (11%). On the other hand, the first year of Brexit has not had as negative an effect as expected on the sales of Catalan food companies, which increased by 8.24%, six percentage points more than the previous year, to a value of €615m.

Prodeca has also noted the recovery of sectors such as wine and cava, which have benefited from the lifting of tariffs in the United States. The general manager of the public company, Ramon Sentmartí, has highlighted the 18% increase in exports of the category fine food (which includes a variety of processed products), with sales of vegetable oils up 43% and fish and seafood up 30%.

Catalonia has more than 2,700 regular exporters of agri-food products. The sector, Sentmartí recalled, has a turnover of around €40bn a year and generates some 166,000 direct jobs. "It represents 16% of Catalan GDP, if we add the primary sector and the entire food processing industry," he added. The Generalitat sees another trend in the 2021 data: the total value of agri-food exports grew last year more than its weight in tons, which rebounded by 10% to 7.6 million.

In the last ten years, foreign sales of these goods have increased by 86% and, in fact, last year also closed with a trade surplus and a coverage rate of 118%. For the second consecutive year, after overtaking Andalusia in 2020, Catalonia was the autonomous community with the highest share of agri-food exports in Spain, 21%. This sector is the third largest exporter in Catalonia representing 15% of the total, behind semi-manufactured products and capital goods.