- As one of Britain's most valuable international partners, how will Spain be affected by the UK's exit from the EU?
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MAURICIO GARCIA DE QUEVEDO, DIRECTOR GENERAL OF FIAB
There are two topics in which the consumer is demanding more and more. One is nutrition, and the second is sustainability, and Spanish food supplies that comfortably. Our food businesses are mostly rural SMEs; we don’t have big multinational brands. Those making our food are closer to the consumer, we have good security over our system and we are supervised by an administration. We’re the fourth biggest economy in Europe but don’t have a food business in the top 50. The biggest has a €1,000 million turnover, which in the context of Europe is nothing.
We have a number of routes to take our plan in the near future: we want to be perceived by consumers and regulators in the proper manner. We have a lot of reputational attacks from influencers spreading misinformation, so we need to educate so people have the correct knowledge to make a decision. Within the single market we have multiples challenges. One is that in Spain the regions are making decisions which are against the national law, which is affecting competitiveness. More and more there are European businesses which aren’t working within the regulations that we have in Spain, which causes challenges. In our agricultural supply chain we have an imbalance between producers, industry and retailers so we need to balance that. We are committed to sustainability and a circular economy and need to make advances in that regard. Internationalisation is one of the key strengths of the Spanish food and drink industry; around 30% of our produce is supplied to international markets – the biggest is France, followed by Italy, Portugal, Great Britain, Germany and the United States.
Spain’s business relationship with the UK is great, and nobody wants that to change that. The Brexit decision is more of a political decision than a business one. We do not know what’s going to happen, but the first thing we’re concerned about is tariffs and customs. Import, export, cost and logistics, all of these things will be affected from a commercial point of view. We have struggled as a result of the reduction of the pound. We’re concerned about how regulation and standards are going to be affected. All of these things are very complex, and we hope that between Europe and the UK there is a sense of not changing too much in terms of business.
Our response to the news that Boris Johnson was re-elected Prime Minister was positive – we finally had certainty that Brexit was going ahead. We have a strong government which can take the measures to reach a resolution quickly. I hope the Conservatives will make a deal with the EU which means that businesses will be either not or very slightly affected by Brexit.
MARIA NARANJO CRESPO, HEAD OF FOOD, WINE AND GASTRONOMY AT ICEX SPAIN TRADE AND INVESTMENT
I think the worst part of the Brexit scenario is already over. One of the scenarios we’ve been preparing for was a no-deal Brexit, which I now don’t see happening. We have a period ahead of us during which nothing will change, and there will be discussions. Spain is the fifth biggest provider of food and beverage to the UK, and most companies have found a way to deal with the new scenario.
We are the biggest exporters to the UK in vegetables and fruit, wine and meat, and in all of these sectors we have already found a way to solve the logistics of the new scenario. We know that the UK has been negotiating trade agreements with former colonies and commonwealth countries, so those competitors are there, but I believe the UK is a great partner for Spain and vice versa, particularly within the food and beverage sector. I believe our gastronomy and its popularity with tourists are assets for our food and beverage industry. There are more and more restaurants promoting high quality foods in the market.There’s work to be done in our wine industry – we really have to promote high quality products and share our knowledge with the UK.
The speciality sector is very important to us because it’s where we create the image we want to display. I believe that Spanish food has stories to tell which can really add value for consumers. Spain is the biggest producer in the EU but nobody knows about this very important strength we have. Consumers are really looking for sustainable products, and I see a lot of producers committed to it in a true way. I think these values Spain holds could be a strength for the UK market. Many of the actions we’re going to promote in the UK link to Spanish gastronomy – particularly in the speciality niche.
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