Spain, first destination for Ukrainian agri-food stuffs

The value of Spanish imports of Ukrainian agri-food products increased by 63.7% between March and December 2022, compared to the same period the previous year, reaching 1,335 million euros. These are data appearing in the report “Effect of the commodity crisis on Spanish agri-food foreign trade”.


The report focuses on data for the period March-December 2022, as these are the months in which trade has been affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which took place on February 24, 2022. Prepared by Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, it shows that this increase was not only due to higher prices but also to a 46.5% increase in the volume of imports (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1
Fig. 1. Evolution of value of exports and imports with Ukraine

The rise, both in value and volume, was mainly due to the increase in cereal imports, which approached €1 billion, 136.2% more than the period March-December 2021. The increase in the quantity of cereal imports was 62% (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2
Fig. 2. Evolution of volume of exports and imports with Ukraine

Spain becomes the leading destination for Ukraine's agricultural exports

This development was a consequence of the agreement signed between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN to facilitate the transit of grain through the Black Sea. The report highlights that, according to UN data, since the opening of the cereal corridor on August 1 and until December of the same year, Spain has been the first destination of Ukrainian grain exports, followed by Turkey and China (Fig. 3). Imports into Spain of oilseeds from Ukraine also increased, while those of oils and fats and animal feedstuffs decreased.

Fig. 3
Fig. 3. Top five products imported by Spain from Ukraine

Despite these data, the situation in Ukraine has made it necessary to seek new trading partners for Spain. In the case of corn, Ukraine remained the second largest supplier to the Spanish market during the mentioned period, behind Brazil. However, Ukraine's share went from 24.4% between March and December 2021 to 17.9% in the same period of 2022. At the same time, Brazil increased its share from 25.1% to 43.3%. France ranked third with 13% of total imports. Romania was fourth with a share of 6.2%.

As regards sunflower oil, Ukraine maintained its position as Spain's leading supplier, but its share fell to 26.5%, compared to 60.7% the previous year. Meanwhile, the weight of Bulgaria increased (25.5% of the total) and, to a lesser extent, the Netherlands (9.2%) and France (8.3%), among others (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4. Origin of corn and sunflower oil imports by Spain

Exports of Spanish agri-food products to Ukraine recorded a drop of 24.9%, reaching 111.5 million euros, in the period between March and December 2022.

Increase in imports of Russian products

Agri-food imports from Russia also grew in value between March and December 2022. The increase was 7.9% to €190.4 million. This development was mainly due to higher prices as the volume imported fell by 42.5%. Spanish exports to the Russian market increased by 11.1% in value to 231.7 million euros, but decreased by 5.2% in volume.


Spain, a net cereal-importing country

Spain has been a cereal deficit country since the 1980s. Between 2011 and 2020, national cereal production ranged between 20 and 26 million tons, except for exceptionally bad years, such as the harvests of 2012 (17 million tons), 2017 (16 million tons) and 2022 (17.8 million tons). Consumption data for the last few years point to the fact that the country uses between 34 and 36 million tons of grain annually.

Domestic production does not cover domestic needs, in terms of human consumption and animal feed, with corn and wheat being the most deficit cereals. This forces cereal operators to supply the production deficit through imports.


Spanish cereal production in 2023

Cereal production in Spain could reach 20.8 million tons this year, according to COCERAL's second advance. This is a higher figure than last year's short crop, which did not reach 18 million tons. However, this is still a very preliminary figure, subject to future corrections due to the rainfall deficit in Spain and the evolution of its reservoir reserves (Fig. 5).