October 31, 2003



Overview of Spain's Aquaculture in 2002-03




In 2003, Spain's total catch continues to decline as a result of lower fish stocks and limits on catches in both EU and non-EU waters. To offset the smaller catch, total imports of seafood reached about 1.34 million tons in 2002, which permitted consumption to remain stable.   Greater output from fish farms also helped meet demand.  Seafood consumption is expected to decline for the next few years due to higher prices and to lower catch.   In 2002, total exports of seafood (fresh and frozen) rose by about 665,000 tons.  Spain will continue to be an active seafood trader in the foreseeable future, with most of its trade conducted with other EU countries, as well as with Argentina, Morocco and Namibia.


In 2002, U.S. seafood exports to Spain totaled $68.9 million, a small drop from the year before.  During the first eight months of 2003, however, U.S. seafood exports to Spain have increased by 41 percent in value from the same period a year earlier.  In terms of value, lobster is the most important U.S. seafood product exported to Spain.  This trade has been picking up in 2003 after a decrease in 2002, when newly opened direct flights from Canada to Madrid offered a better access to the Spanish market.  During the first six months of 2003, however, U.S. market share has improved to 44 percent of Spain's imports, while that for Canada reached only 33 percent. 


At the end of 2002 the EU Commission approved the Common Fishery Policy (CFP).  One of the most important aspects of the CFP is the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for each country.  The Commission proposed reductions in Member State TACs in order to help some marine species to recover from previous years depletion.  Although Spain was able to improve its TAC from the Commission's initial proposal, Spanish fishermen were disappointed with the final decision because their quotas for high-value species, such as monkfish, hake and scampi, were reduced. 


Spanish fishermen were also disappointed by other EU policy changes. Subsidies for the modernization or construction of new vessels, previously established in the Berlin Council, were supposed to be in force until 2006.  The EU will now eliminate the subsidies a year earlier and has excluded vessels of over 400 tons from the program.  About 90 percent of the Spanish fleet is composed by vessels of less than 100 tons; loss of the subsidy will make it more difficult for Spanish fishermen to obtain the larger vessels that will be economically competitive in the future.







The total quantity of marine fish caught by Spanish vessels and landed in Spanish ports was estimated by FAO at about 960,794 tons in CY 2001; this was marginally above the total for the previous year.  Although official data are not available for 2002 or 2003, industry sources say that a drop is occurring due to an additional reduction in catches in EU waters. Encouraged by good domestic prices, aquaculture production rose again in 2002 and is expected to continue to rise in the next few years.  Canned fish production in 2002 totaled 268,929 tons, up 3.3 percent from 2001.  In addition, smoked fish production continued growing, by five percent to about 15,500 tons, fueled by an increased demand. 


The main fresh species landed in Spain are blue fish, hake and whiting, cod, tuna, and cephalopods.  Mussels are the most popular seafood item in Spain, primarily due to their low prices and large production in Galicia.  Tuna accounts for about half of all fish used by the Spanish canning industry, followed by sardines, squid, mussels and mackerel.




Spain is one of the leading per capita consumers of seafood products in the EU and third in the world after Japan and Portugal.  According to the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, fish consumption during 2002 was about 36,6 kilos/per capita.  Smaller catches were offset by imports.  While consumer preferences are largely determined by price, fresh fish are generally preferred over frozen products.  Seafood accounts for 14 percent of Spain's total food expenses, and the percentage has been increasing annually, though expenditures continue to increase both in volume (4.5%) and in value (3.9%) from a year earlier.  In 2002, total seafood consumption was almost 1.5 million tons, of which 1,121,950 tons were consumed at home and 364,050 tons in the HRI sector.  Consumption by type included: fresh fish 551,413 tons; frozen fish 132,244 tons; shellfish 287,609 tons; and canned seafood 287,609 tons.




In CY 2002, imports of seafood products, including prepared or preserved seafood, totaled 1,339,247 tons, down seven percent from the previous year.  About a quarter came from other EU countries, with Argentina, Morocco, Namibia, the Falkland Islands and the United States as the other major suppliers.  The main fresh fish imported continue to be sardines, hake, salmon, flounder and anchovies.  The primary frozen species are hake, tuna and sole.  As the trend toward lower catches is expected to continue, imports should continue growing over the next few years.  During the first six months of 2003, imports of seafood have increased by 13 percent in comparison with the same period a year earlier.  The table below shows imports by product category.


In 2002, exports of seafood products, including processed products, reached 777,496 tons, a decrease of 15 percent from the previous year.  The main destinations are other EU countries, mainly Portugal, Italy and France, which combined account for 45 percent of total exports.




Lobster, salmon, fresh whiting, frozen squid, surimi and frozen fish (especially cod and tuna) have a large potential for U.S. exporters.  Demand in the canning industry for frozen tuna is stronger due to lower catches of tuna by the Spanish fleet.  In addition, demand for anchovies, sardines and mackerel continues to be strong and may increase further given the steady development of the canning industry and its exports.  


Potential also exists in the value-added or prepared fish sector as changing work patterns and lifestyles have increased the demand for ready-to-eat products.  Demand for lobster is strong in Spain due to its increased use in the popular rice dish, paella, and for special occasion banquets.  The use of surimi in salads is very popular.  Finally, fresh fish (mainly whiting and hake) imported by air for direct consumption is also enjoying solid demand.


Both Spain and the other EU countries have a large presence at trade fairs and are engaged in promotional campaigns.  The main seafood shows in Europe are the Brussels Seafood Show and CONXEMAR in Vigo, Spain.  The Office of Agricultural Affairs has been organizing a U.S. pavilion in CONXEMAR during the last five editions; many U.S. exhibitors have had excellent success at this show.


The declining catch of the Spanish fleet is putting strong upward pressure on prices.  At Mercamadrid (the largest wholesale market in central Spain) prices for fresh fish rose by about 11 percent between June 2001 and June 2002, while those shellfish rose by 28 percent.  Only prices for frozen fish remained stable.  The following table lists prices (in euros/kg.) for seafood at the wholesale market level; these are averages for the month of September. 




In December 2002, the EU Commission announced its reforms of the Common Fishery Policy.  The Commission also revised national total allowable catches (TACs) in EU waters.  The EU also negotiates bilateral agreements with third countries and with international fishing organizations, such as NAFO.  The 2003 TAC for Spain and for the total EU, for relevant species is included in the following tables.  (This information is contained in Council Regulation 2341/2002 of 20 December 2002, published in the Official Journal L356 dated 31 December 2002.)





According to trade sources, the Spanish squid catch was about 23,000 tons in 2002 due to higher catches in Mauritanian waters as a consequence of an agreement signed in 2002 between the EU and Mauritania.  To meet higher demand mainly from other EU countries, Spain increased imports in 2002 and should continue to do so in the next few years


Most of the squid consumed in Spain has been frozen.  Most squid caught be Spanish vessels is processed and frozen at sea.  Once it arrives in port, the squid is sent to factories, where it is thawed, further processed and refrozen.  Retailers may subsequently re-thaw this product and sell it as "fresh".




In 2002, Spanish squid consumption increased slightly.  Most is consumed directly, but about 12,000 tons were used by the canning industry.  Consumption is expected to be stable in the next few years, as higher intake by the canning industry should be offset by lower "fresh" consumption.




Most squid and cuttlefish imports are frozen.  In 2002, imports from the main suppliers, the Falkland Islands and Morocco, decreased, while U.S. exports remained steady.  Total imports during the first six months of 2003 have increased by five percent; India has became the main supplier, followed by the Falkland Islands and China; shipments from the U.S. are off by more than 50 percent.


In 2002, the volume of Spanish exports decreased by about 36 percent.  This drop was probably due to larger availability of product from Peru and Thailand in the EU market.




Spain will continue to offer good opportunities for U.S. squid exports.  Imports already account for nearly 90 percent of Spain's total supply and the local catch is expected to decline further in coming years.  The main competition to U.S. squid comes from well - established squid suppliers, including other EU countries, India, the Falkland Islands, China, and Morocco.  Most of the trade is handled by frozen food processors, who also organize their own distribution.




According to trade sources, supplies of lobster (Homarus) and spiny lobster (Panulirus) landed in Spanish ports by Spanish vessels or taken from lobster farms remained stable at about 1,600 tons.  (No official statistics are available.)  Nearly all of this amount is derived from wild catch, with less than 40 tons per year produced by lobster farms.  Most are caught in northern Spain, mainly in Galicia, but they are very scarce, and no increases in production are expected in the future.  The majority of the Spanish catch is of the Homarus genus.




Lobster consumption rose in CY 2002 despite the high prices.  About 50 percent of total lobster consumption consists of frozen imported spiny lobster.  Demand for live lobster (Homarus) is growing due to increased use of the product for special occasions, such as wedding banquets, and due to continued use as an ingredient in high quality paellas.   U.S. and Canadian lobster compete directly in the Spanish market.




In 2002, imports of live lobsters from Canada increased by 34 percent while those from the U.S. (mainly live lobsters) declined by about one percent.  This trend is not as strong as during the last two previous years of 2003: during the first six months of the year, imports of lobsters from Canada rose by five percent while those from the U.S. increased by 7.5 percent.  Most of this shift is due to a new Air Canada flight between Montreal and Madrid which permits Canadian product to be shipped directly.  Prior to the establishment of this service, substantial amounts of Canadian lobster were being transhipped thru Boston airport and recorded as U.S. exports.  Due to the popularity of lobsters (Homarus), total imports could rise even further in CY 2003.



Source: USDA