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Spain: Horticultural sector advances in Europe despite fierce competition

According to the general director of the Federation of Fruit and Vegetable Producers and Exporters (Fepex), José María Pozancos, the Spanish horticultural sector continues to move forward as a result of its strength as an exporter and consolidation in the European market, despite difficulties such as the recession or the fierce competition it must face.

Horticultural firms will show their strengths at Madrid's Fruit Attraction, which started yesterday, Wednesday 16 October, and will last until tomorrow, with 670 exhibitors. The fair has been organised by Fepex and the Fairs Institution of Madrid (Ifema).

According to Fepex, exports have grown by 18% in volume over the past five years, reaching 11.11 million tonnes in 2012, and by 20% in value, totalling 9,641 million Euro.

Growing trends continue in 2013, with a 5% increase in volume between January and July (7 million tonnes) and 13% in value (6,600 million Euro).

Fepex assures that the market share in the European Union, "the world's toughest market", has increased from 26.7% to 29.3% between 2008 and 2012; 92% of all exports are shipped to EU countries and 5% to non-EU European destinations.

Foreign sales represent two thirds of the horticultural sector's turnover, which amounts to 13,825 million Euro, according to data provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

As for employment numbers, they have slightly increased to around 400,000 jobs, plus another 75,000 in processing and commercialisation positions, according to Fepex.

Pozancos highlights that "exports are going well in free trade markets, which reflects the competitiveness of our fruits and vegetables," although he admits that national exports do not fare as well when accessing non-European destinations.

In this sense, he points out how countries as attractive as the United States or China "have their doors pretty much closed to Spanish products."

He criticises the European Commission's poor negotiation of agreements, through which tariff advantages are granted to third parties and which do not help in overcoming phytosanitary hurdles.

Regarding agreements, the Spanish sector shows special concern about the one with Morocco, due to the overlap in the commercialisation of certain products from Almeria, Murcia or the Canary Islands, particularly tomatoes.

Fepex's leader affirms that Morocco's imports do not abide by this protocol when it comes to entry prices.

"We are not the only ones saying it, as prices are published daily by the EU. Importers are selling under the agreed entry prices," said Pozancos, who stressed on the fact that Morocco's production costs are ten times lower than in the EU.

As for domestic fruit and vegetable consumption levels, they have increased by 10% over the past four years, reaching 8.7 million tonnes, which according to Fepex is the result of a greater awareness about the need for a healthy and balanced diet.

Regarding Fruit Attraction, he explains that the number of companies attending has increased by 23%, exhibiting in a total of 20,000 m², which makes it "Madrid's third most important fair."

Source: EFE

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