Focus on Spain: The livestock industry is a big consumer of cereals

MADRID, SPAIN — Domestic flour consumption in Spain is growing, but the grain sector is largely focused on supplying a large-scale livestock industry. However, pandemic restrictions and changing demand for meat exports have affected consumption, especially of higher value products.

In its cereals market report of March 17, the International Grains Council (IGC) estimated Spain’s 2021-22 cereal production at 23.8 million tonnes, compared to 25.4 million the previous year. The total includes 8.2 million tonnes of wheat, up from 7.8 million in 2020-21. Maize production remained unchanged at 4.2 million tonnes. Barley production was 8.9 million tonnes, compared to 10.9 million the previous year. Rye production is estimated at 300,000 tonnes, compared to 400,000 previously. Spanish durum wheat production is estimated at 700,000 tonnes, compared to 800,000 the previous year.

The European Grains Trade Organization COCERAL, in a forecast released in March, forecast Spain’s total grain production in 2022 at 20.998 million tonnes, up from 23.055 million in 2021. This includes 6.12 million tonnes of soft wheat (the previous year was 7.308 million), 765,000 tonnes of durum wheat, compared to 728,000 the previous year, 8.159 million tonnes of barley, compared to 8.966 million in 2021. COCERAL estimated Spanish maize production in 2022 at 3.621 million tonnes, compared to 3.739 million, with rye production at 293,000 tonnes, compared to 302,000, oat harvest at 1.253 million tonnes, compared to 1.191 million and triticale harvest at 762,000 tonnes, against from 793,000. Spanish sorghum production is forecast unchanged at 27,000 tons.

COCERAL also estimated rapeseed production in 2022 at 240,000 tonnes, up from 226,000 in 2021, with sunflower seed production at 786,000 tonnes, down from 774,000, while the soybean crop is expected to remain unchanged at 11,000. tons. Total oilseed production in 2022 is estimated at 1.037 million tonnes, compared to 1.011 million in 2021.

In a July 30, 2021 report, the USDA Attaché in Madrid said that “after a long-term downward trend with tree crops competing with arable land, the area planted with cereals in Spain s stabilized at around 5.8 million hectares”.

“Compared to the previous season, the area sown to wheat has increased, the area to coarse grains (rye, oats, mixed grains and sorghum) has remained stable compared to the previous season, while the area to barley is below the previous year’s levels,” the report said. “In the case of maize, which is mainly grown under irrigation, the combination of sufficient levels of storage water, improved margins and the intensive use of maize as a second crop, particularly in the River Ebro, resulted in a slightly larger area.”

The attaché forecast Spain’s total cereal production in 2021-22 at almost 36 million tonnes, close to the previous year’s level.

“Animal feed is Spain’s main cereal destination, representing more than 75% of the country’s demand,” the attaché said. “In 2021-2022, the consumption of feed grains in Spain depends on the demand for livestock products in major export markets such as China, the state of animal disease epidemics in other Member States of the EU and the pace of recovery in the hospitality sector as public health restrictions. are lifted.

“In 2019-2020, grain utilization was severely impacted by the strict COVID-related lockdown which limited in-country consumption of HRI oriented value-added livestock products (hotels, restaurants and institutions). In 2020-21, continued low HRI activity, combined with abundant pasture availability, prevented a repeat of the record levels of feed production recorded in 2019.”

As it grapples with soaring commodity prices, the export-oriented pork sector has weathered the health crisis better than HRI-oriented producers, managing to offset market reductions to some extent. interior caused by the slowdown in HRI activity and the lack of tourists, the attaché said.

“Industry sources report that in 2020-2021, the pandemic has resulted in a related increase in retail sales of grain-based food products despite reduced sales through HRI channels and tourism,” the report said. ‘attached.


According to the Spanish flour millers association AFHSE (La Asociación de Fabrications de Harinas y Semolas de España), citing data collected on December 31, 2019, the sector has 101 active flour mills and eight semolina factories. The association describes the sector as being almost entirely made up of small and medium-sized family businesses, often dating back several generations. About 80% of the factories are in rural areas and employ some 3,000 people.

AFHSE cited figures from the National Institute of Statistics (Instituto Nacional de Estadística, INE) which put flour production in 2019 at 3,598,068 tonnes, 22% more than in 1995.

AFHSE described the rise as gradual but not linear, attributing it to more efficient use of production facilities. The flour produced is mainly for the domestic market, although the association said the industry has the capacity to supply export markets.

Exports have fallen over time, from 6% to 7% in the late 1990s and early 2000s, to 4% of production in 2019. AFHSE explained that the decline, a similar trend to other European countries, is due to an increase in processing capacity. in developing countries, which means they have replaced flour purchases with wheat. He also said that Spain’s domestic consumption of flour has tended to increase in recent years.

Agricultural policy

Spanish production of fuel ethanol has fallen from a peak of 547 million liters in 2019 to 480 million in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a reduction in the consumption of ethanol as fuel, while the conflict in Ukraine has an impact on the availability of maize for the sector.

Spain’s agricultural policy is part of the European Common Agricultural Policy, which will operate in a reformed version from early 2023. The changes give European Union member states greater autonomy through CAP strategic plans that each must elaborate. Spain has submitted its 3,381-page plan on time, by the end of 2021.

The Spanish plan, according to the strategic statement it contains, “aims at the sustainable development of agriculture, food and rural areas to ensure food security for society through a competitive sector and a living rural environment “. Spain aims to achieve this objective by achieving greater equity in income support, with a better distribution of direct aid. It will also ensure compliance with environmental objectives, combining regulation with payments that reward farmers who go beyond basic standards. It also plans to implement a series of measures to contribute to the environmental, economic and social sustainability of the sector, including investments, innovation, training and advice. The country is also promising an effort to encourage young people to join the industry as well as address the gender gap in the sector.

At a more specific level, the plan goes into detail. For example, for milling wheat, it includes requirements on the use of pesticides and herbicides and prohibits the use of GM varieties.

As with all other plans submitted, the European Commission’s Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI) responded with comments, in a letter from Director General Wolfgang Burtscher, in response to which Spain should modify and resubmit their plan.

The Commission’s comments begin with a question that has largely overshadowed the process of developing the new plans.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the widespread spike in commodity prices bring to the fore in the strongest possible way the integral link between climate action and food security,” the Commission said.

Broadly speaking, the Commission said member states should review their draft plans “to strengthen the resilience of the EU agricultural sector”, as well as “to reduce their dependence on synthetic fertilizers and increase the production of renewable energy without harming food production”, and “to transform their production capacity towards more sustainable production methods.