Gemma Fernández. Journalist. @gemmafdz
The economic crisis in which Spain has been mired since 2008 has led to apathetic consumer spending, which has been inversely proportional to the pace of agri-food exports, especially to China, where they have increased six-fold in the last five years.
Broadly speaking, agri-food sales outside Spain may have expanded by 5.3% year-on-year in 2013, to 23.248 billion euros, if the Spanish Food and Drink Industry (FIAB) estimates are on target.
Those figures also show that agri-food exports have gained strength in recent years to become one of the main drivers of Spanish product sales around the world, with sustained growth of almost 10%. Internationalization has become one of the agri-food industry's main assets, now accounting for "28.5% of total sector revenues", according to Horacio González Aleman, FIAB's managing director.
China's imports up 124%
China is one of the biggest drivers of growth in Spanish agri-food exports. Sales of Spanish food and beverages there have been expanding at a year-on-year pace of 124% in the last few years, generating 602 million euros in 2013, compared with 532 million in 2012 and 97 million in 2008, before the economic crisis battered Spain.
General exports amounted to 4.524 billion euros in 2013, up from 3.674 billion euros in 2008.
The most popular products in China have been wine, olive oil, and meat, especially pork.
Spanish export data to China shows that bottled wine sales increased by 12.33% year-on-year in 2013, totaling close to 69 million euros.
China imported 29.7 million liters of Spanish wine in the last year, 11.4% more than in 2012, making Spain the fourth-leading bottled wine exporter to the Asian giant, behind France, Australia and Chile.
Spanish olive oil is also increasingly popular among Chinese consumers. China imported 18,666 tons of Spain's "liquid gold" in the first nine months of 2013, providing it with a market share of 61.85%.
Back in Spain, the picture is still bleak, as domestic consumption is stagnant. Spending by consumers, households and the restaurant and food industry can't seem to get back on the path to growth. As a result, the food and drink industry expects revenues to dip by 1.07% year-on-year in 2013 to 89.204 billion euros, compared with 90.169 billion euros in 2012.