Porky China hogs Spain’s innards exports

Pig stomach, brain and intestines are just some of the swine parts sold to China, which has become the biggest importer of Spanish pork off-cuts.

Porky China hogs Spain's innards exports
Pig heads, brains, intestines and stomach are just some of the parts exported to China. Photo of a pig's head

While the Spanish are a renowned nation of pork lovers thanks to the legendary jamón, and are not averse to enjoying the odd pig’s ear or trotter, there are some piggy parts that even they will not entertain the thought of eating.

But thanks to China, Spanish exporters now have a growing market hogging Spain’s pork off cuts and it is literally bringing home the bacon.

Exports of Spanish pork off cuts to China rose from €59.2 million in 2013 to €76.3 million in 2014, a 24 percent rise in one year, according to figures from Spain’s office of meat exports.

While China is the biggest importer of Spanish pork innards, it is currently the fourth biggest importer of Spanish pork as a whole, behind France, Portugal and Italy, importing €109 million worth of pork in 2014.

China’s ascent has coincided with Russia’s fall; Russia banned all imports of EU meat products in August 2014 in response to countries who imposed sanctions on Moscow to punish the country for the ongoing war in Ukraine.  

José Manuel Alvarez from Spain’s office of meat exports (OECE) told The Local that despite the closure of the Russian market, Spanish exporters have been looking towards Asian markets where pigs are flying…off the shelves:

"Since the closure of the Russian market, our exporters have been looking towards alternative Asian markets which has increased their sales prices more than almost all of their EU competitors.

"We are hoping to significantly increase exports to China in the coming years because of the opportunity it presents," Alvarez told The Local.

Spain currently ranks fourth among the world’s pork exporting nations, exporting eight percent of the world’s total, or 1.4 million tonnes.

The country is only beaten by Germany (18 percent) a nation known for its beloved wurst, USA (15 percent) and Denmark, home of legendary Danish bacon (10 percent).

In 2014, Spain exported a million tonnes of pork, worth €2.5 billion, a 9 percent growth on the year before, the Spanish Office of Meat Exports (OECE) told The Local.

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Trump puts squeeze on Spanish olive oil producers

Farmers had just begun harvesting olives in southern Spain when US President Donald Trump soured the mood with the announcement that Washington would slap hefty tariffs on their produce

Trump puts squeeze on Spanish olive oil producers
Photos: AFP

“We are really worried,” said Carlos Carreira at his 130 hectare (320 acre) olive grove near the town of Antequera in the southern region of Andalusia.    

Spain is the world's biggest producer of olive oil, and the bulk of it comes from Andalusia, whose hills and plains are dotted with olive trees with their distinctive gnarled trunks.

“Already last year prices were sometimes so low that they did not cover production costs. If we add to this a sharp rise in the price of our products in the United States, many farms may end up not being viable,” Carreira added.

Several thousand olive growers, many waving olive branches marched through Madrid on Thursday to protest plunging prices and demand protection from a 25 percent tax which the US is planning to impose from October 18th.

The fresh tariffs announced October 2nd target some EU agricultural and industrial products  — including Spanish olives and olive oil — worth $7.5 billion (€6.8 billion).

The tariffs are in retaliation for subsidies given by Brussels to aircraft maker Airbus.

Olives and olive oil are Spain's main agricultural exports to the United States. It exported €405 million worth of olive oil, and €179 million worth of olives, to the country last year.

At Carreira's farm, a dozen day labourers used machines to shake the olive trees, causing the fruit to fall onto long nets.   

Still bright green, they will be sold as table olives. Olive oil production will begin a few weeks later when riper olives will be collected.


But some of this “liquid gold”, which sustains entire villages, risks going unsold this year because of the tariffs.

Dcoop, the cooperative which Carreira belongs to and whose headquarters sit at the entrance to Antequera, exports nearly 15 percent of its output to the US, around 35,000 tonnes a year.

The cooperative, which groups 75,000 farmers, is a heavyweight in the sector. In some years it produces more olive oil than all of Italy.   

Dcoop views the US market as a growth area, estimating olive oil consumption there could double in less than a decade.   

It invested $80 million in the US, mostly in two bottling plants in Baltimore and Los Angeles.

“All of a sudden, the market we believed in and tried to grow imposes these tariffs on us. It's like we are being tripped in the middle of a race,” said Dcoop president Antonio Luque.

He said the injustice is all the greater since Spain's main European competitors like Italy, Greece and Portugal have been spared tariffs on their olives, and will certainly use this advantage to boost their market share in
the US.

Job cuts

The cooperative will probably have to slash its workforce by 10 percent at its main bottling plant in Andalusia.

These jobs could reappear in the US since the Trump administration has exempted bulk olive oil from the tariffs, meaning that Spanish firms could get around the levy by bottling their oil on the other side of the Atlantic.

Dcoop has not ruled out expanding its US plants, even if it would be “bad for jobs in Spain”, Luque said.

Olive farmers in Andalusia are still reeling from heavy tariffs slapped by the US on black table olives in response to complaints from Californian producers who argued their Spanish rivals had an unfair advantage because of the European Union's lavish farm subsidy scheme.   

Exports of black olives from Spain to the US fell by 50 percent.   

Spanish farmers accuse Spain's Socialist government of doing nothing to protect them.

Luque warned that support for the EU could decline as a result of the differing tariff advantages.   

“Why stay in the European Union if things are like that in the future? All this could do so much more harm, socially, than people imagine,” he said.

By AFP's Emmanuelle Michel


READ MORE: Cava, queso, olive oil and mariscos: Trump slaps extra tariffs on Spanish produce