Despite the challenges in 2020, the Spanish export of fresh fruits and vegetables has grown by 5% in terms of value, reaching a total of 14,200 million Euro, while the volume has remained similar to that of 2019, with 13.5 million tons, according to FEPEX estimates. Of the 14,200 million Euro, a total of 6,100 million Euro have corresponded to vegetables and 8,100 million Euro to fruits.
In 2020, the year of the COVID-19 outbreak, the fruit and vegetable sector has been recognized as an essential activity. During the lockdown, its productive and commercial activity was maintained to guarantee the supply of the local population and the foreign markets. It adapted to the exceptional nature of a situation that has led to important changes. Companies have implemented new safety protocols in the field and in the handling centers, which has led to a significant increase in costs. In the field of consumption, COVID and especially the lockdown imposed from March to June boosted the demand in Spanish households, with 13% growth in March, 40% in April, 22% in May and 11% in June compared to the same months of 2019.
The post-Brexit agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom has also been a hot topic in 2020. Although Spanish exports to this country, the third largest destination market, grew by 8% up until October, totaling 1,547 million Euro, the sector, united under FEPEX, considered all possible scenarios, including a no-deal and the imposition of tariffs estimated at 198 million Euro per year. The agreement reached on Christmas Eve will avoid these tariffs, but will not avoid the new formalities and customs controls introduced after the United Kingdom leaves the EU permanently on January 1.
The increasing competition of imports from third countries is another of the highlights of 2020. Imports have grown by 7% up until October and 64% of these come from third countries, with a strong impact on strategic crops, since the seasons overlap with those of the Spanish productions. For this reason, FEPEX believes that one of the challenges for 2021 is striving for a fairer commercial policy that can prevent the unfair competition that EU productions currently suffer, as well as the application of measures to improve competitiveness, in light of the globalization of the European market, which is still the main destination for Spanish fruit and vegetables.