Spanish Fruit and Vegetable Imports Increase in 2021 Led by Non-European Origins

Published Feb 4, 2022
2021 saw Spanish fresh produce imports climb in volume and value, mainly driven by increased fresh imports from Non-EU origins. In the January-November 2021 period, Spain's fresh fruit and vegetable imports increased YoY by 6.3% in volume totaling 3.2M mt and by 4% in value totaling EUR 2.95B. The increase in imports reflects a broader diversification of origins in fresh Spanish fruit and vegetable imports, positioning Spain as the second-largest importer of non-EU fresh products in the EU after the Netherlands.

According to the Department of Customs and Special Taxes, during the first eleven months of 2021, vegetables and fruit imports in Spain amounted to 3.2M mt for a value of EUR 2.95B. The figures for 2021 maintain the upward trend of non-EU imports, which is estimated to reach EUR 1.62B. Over the last five years, purchases of fruit and vegetables from outside Europe have gone from EUR 1.18B to EUR 1.62B, an increase of 37%. In volume, imports of non-European went from 12M mt in 2016 to 14.2M mt in 2020 for a 15.5% increase.

The continuous increase in imports from third-party countries outside Europe reinforced the diversification and globalization that the fresh Spanish market has undergone. As a result, Spain has strengthened its position as a re-exporter hub for the rest of Europe over the last five years. Moreover, the growth of imports in Spain is greater than that of exports abroad, which for 2021 is estimated at 11.9M mt, a 3% YoY increase against the 6.3% increase in imports.

For Diana Gomez, Tridge’s Data & Account Manager in Spain, the dominant position as a trade hub for fresh products that the Spanish sector has adopted has increased imports with a larger volume from non-European countries—offering opportunities for products such as avocados, berries, fresh beans, bananas, mangoes, and watermelons. “Due to its current role, Spain is a popular place for large European buyer groups. These buyer groups usually combine sourcing in Spain with imported products, which brings an all-year-round supply, but also an increasing price competition and a downward trend of Spanish fruit and vegetable exports outside Europe,” she explained.

Non-European origins of fruit and vegetables have seen continued growth in Spain as a result of the diversification of imports. Morocco is the partner with which Spain has strengthened relations the most. Imports from the African country have increased 25% since 2016 and 8% in vegetables. Peru has also substantially increased its export to Spain since 2016, as well as Egypt and Argentina.

Vegetables; Decrease in value but not in volume

In 2021, vegetable imports stood at 1.4M mt, a 1.8% YoY increase for a value of EUR 788M, which was a 2.5% decrease in value. The reduction in value was due to the decline in Spain's two most imported vegetables, potatoes and green beans. Imported potatoes amounted to EUR 201M, 18% less than last year. Green beans imports accounted for EUR 122.6M at the end of 2021, decreasing 4% YoY.

Vegetable imports accounted for 43.7% of the total fresh fruits and vegetable import market in Spain. Despite the decrease in value of potato imports, potatoes remain the largest volume import vegetable with 600K mt, followed by tomatoes with 148K mt, green beans with 96.2K mt, and onions with 91.4K mt.

Morocco is the leading supplier of vegetables to Spain with constant growth in exports, accounting for 23% of the Spanish import share. Other non-European vegetable suppliers that have increased their exports to Spain are Peru and Argentina.

Fruits; Bananas and avocados remain the most imported fruit

For the imports of fruits, Spain imported a quantity of 1.8M mt in 2021, a 9.5% increase YoY and a value of EUR 2.17B, a rise of 6.7%. Bananas led the growth as they were the most imported fruit in the year with 304K mt, with an 18% increase YoY, followed by avocados with 194K mt imported for a 26% increase. There was also growth in apple imports, increasing by 6% to 151.4K mt, pineapples increasing by 15% to 135.4K mt, kiwifruit rising by 12% to 130.8K mt, and watermelons increasing by 3% to 112.3K mt. All of the fruits recorded import growth with the exception of oranges, which fell 9% to 166.2K mt.

In terms of fruit suppliers, the US remains the largest supplier to Spain, with 19.5% of the total fruit import market. However, for 2021, it is estimated that the US declined its fruit exports to Spain by 2% YoY. Morocco has also increased its fruit exports to Spain considerably and is expected to have a 27% YoY increase in 2021. Peru and Costa Rica are two suppliers that have also grown their export value to Spain over the last years.

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