The canned seafood sector in Spain

Spain leads the production of canned food in the EU.

Spain is the top European producer of canned food with more than 343 000 tonnes of product weight produced, valued at EUR 1 500 million. The leading product, tuna, constitutes around two-thirds of the produced volume and one-half of the value. Notably, Spain produces almost 70% of the canned tuna processed in the EU. 2014 saw a decline in value of canned seafood produced in Spain, mainly due to lower raw material prices of tuna.

Developments of other canned seafood besides tuna were not so positive. Canned bivalves were affected by the intermittent appearance of toxins in Galicia. The canned sardine industry was affected by reduced sardine catches in Spanish waters. The traditionally fragmented industry is now consolidating. Companies are in search of business models that are able to deal more successfully with the new market context. It is especially vital to have some financial capacity to deal with globalization, which will allow for more value-added products.

Spain ranks as the tenth largest importer of canned food in the world, with imports totaling an estimated EUR 1 billion per year. More than half of these imports (EUR 560 million in 2014) are canned fish, making Spain the seventh largest importer in the world of this product. By far, canned tuna (which also includes tuna loins, the raw material for the Spanish canning industry) is the main imported item. It represents 63% of the volume and 68% of the value of all imported canned fish into Spain. The main concern for the Spanish canning industry in a globalized world is the competition from developing countries where labour costs are lower (EUR 2000 per month in the EU versus EUR 150 per month in Latin America and as low as EUR 100 per month in China).

The Spanish canning industry relies heavily on imports of raw material. Ecuador is the top supplier of tuna, Morocco of anchovies and sardines, Portugal of mackerel, Argentina of salted anchovies, Viet Nam of clams and cockles, Peru of squid, and Chile of mussels.

In this context, the evolution of the canning sector in Spain is highly dependent on the EU tariff for its raw materials. To bolster the viability of the industry and its employment, the canning industry achieved a quota of 22 000 tonnes of tuna loins free of tariffs from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. However, this quota is not sufficient, as the 2015 quota was filled in just four days. Many canners and its association are advocating to increase the quota to at least 30 000 tonnes, with a clause to increase an additional 20% per year depending on the usage.

Raw material supplies to the Spanish tuna canners benefitted from the zero tariff on tuna loins from Ecuador, especially those Spanish companies that own factories in Ecuador (Salica, Garavilla and Calvo).

Almost half of the Spanish production is exported, mostly within the EU

Spain is the eighth largest exporter of canned food in the world. More than 43% of the production of canned fish is exported, which places the country fifth in canned fish in terms of value. Most of the sales are tuna products (83%).

Almost 90% of Spanish exports are within the EU, with the main markets being Italy, France and Portugal. Spanish exports outside the EU are limited but at higher prices compared with the tuna exported to neighbouring countries. In cases such as Switzerland, USA or Mexico, the product is positioned in an exclusive market at a premium-price.

There are also Spanish exports of large cans of salted anchovies to Morocco and Algeria, which are reprocessed and re-exported to the European market.

Several Spanish companies focus their marketing efforts in international markets, performing just 30%-40% of their sales domestically. This is the case of Calvo, IG Montes, Garavilla and Group Consortium. International markets are also becoming a significant opportunity for small-scale producers like Conservas Fredo and Palacio de Oriente, which consolidated their strategies throughout 2014 in view of the domestic market standstill.

Spanish domestic market is worth around EUR 1.3 billion

The consumption of canned fish in Spain grew in volume terms in 2014, but fell in value, due to lower prices of tuna. Tuna makes up 71% of the traded volume and 64% of the value. Other categories demonstrated stability in the market place, though products such as canned squid and cockles have experienced significant volume increases.                         

Large retailers have begun promoting private labels in recent years and have now become leaders in the market both in volume and in value. Private labels from supermarkets represent 75% of the canned fish purchased in Spain.

Several Spanish canneries have focused on private labels, which offer a smaller profit margin but ensure a stable demand.

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