Agricultural policy

Within the framework of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), Spanish agricultural policy sets a range of specific and priority targets regarding agriculture, livestock farming and fisheries: to consolidate and increase safe, high-quality, market-orientated and sustainable production.

Agriculture in Spain is a strategic sector of great social, territorial, environmental and economic importance. This assertion rests upon the following facts:

  • Half of all land in Spain is used for agricultural or livestock activities (33% as farmland and 16% as meadows or pasture land) and the agri-food sector is one of the most dynamic sectors of the Spanish economy.
  • Spain's agricultural output offers wide diversity and high quality, owing to the special conditions of climate and genetic resources in the country, the sophistication of Spanish plant and animal health protection systems, and the high technological development of Spanish crop and livestock farms.
  • Agricultural production in 2015 totalled 45.49 billion euros, 3.4% up on the figure for 2014. It employed 818,740 workers, expressed in annual work units.

According to the most recent industrial survey of businesses by the National Statistical Institute (INE), the Spanish agri-food industry is the country's leading industrial sector, employing 353.965 people at 31 December 2014 and with net product sales of 93.396 billion euros in 2014, representing 20.5% of industry as a whole. The number of people working in the Spanish food sector in 2014 amounted to 2% of the 17,569,100 people at work in total, according to the Labour Force Survey (Spanish acronym: EPA).

The agri-food export sector showed a consistently positive trade balance, as shown in the chart attached.

Agricultural production

In 2015, the value of crop production amounted to 27.552 billion euros, accounting for 60.6% of all agricultural output. The fruit and vegetable sector is the most important, followed by cereals, olive oil and food plants.

In 2015, the value of production of the fruit and vegetable sector was 13.24 billion euros, up 14% on the figure for the previous year and up 18% on the average for the last five years. Production of food and vegetables stood at 26.8 million tonnes, a fall of 4% on the previous year, but up 4% on the average for the last five years. Spain is the second biggest producer of fruit and vegetables in the European Union and the sixth biggest globally. It produces over 80 different products, making use of a wide variety of growing calendars and production systems.

Cultivo del tomate (B. Domínguez, Ministerio de Agricultura y Pesca, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente)The fruit and vegetable sector is heavily export-focused as around 50% of output is sent overseas, with this figure rising to 70% in certain products. In 2015, the trade balance posted a surplus of 10.428 billion euros, the highest in the last five years. The European Union (mainly Germany, France and the United Kingdom) is Spain's leading overseas market, accounting for 92% of production in this sector. Spain is the main exporter in the European Union and one of the leading exporters worldwide.

Spain is the main producer and seller of olive oil and table olives in the world. With an area under cultivation of 2,605,252 hectares (24% of the global total), it produces 44% of all the olive oil and 24% of table olives. In other words, one half of the bottles of olive oil and one jar in four of the table olives consumed around the world have their origin in Spain. 2015-2016 olive oil production accounted for 6.4% of crop output value.

Production of olive oil during the 2015/16 season was 1,401,600 tonnes, representing a return to levels closer to our potential production after the sharp fall in the previous season due to a variety of weather factors. This figure is 66% higher than that in the 2014/15 season, and 15% higher than the average in the four previous seasons.

In the case of table olives, the production of 601,900 tonnes amounted to 8% more than in the 2014/15 season and 12.5% more than the average in the four previous years, despite the significant fall in production of the manzanilla variety (down 28%). The production figure is the second highest in history, second only to the 608,600 tonnes in the 2010/11 campaign.

Spain is the biggest exporter in the world of olive oil, with Italy in second place. Olive oil occupies a significant position in the ranking of agricultural food product exports, behind only citrus fruit, wine and pork. It has a significant surplus in its balance of trade. The amounts exported in the 2015/16 season stood at 866,100 tonnes, 5% more than in the previous season and 1% higher than the average, which includes the all-time high figure for exports so far in the 2013/14 season. These exports will contribute a value of around 3 billion euros, the highest ever.

The main feature of the table olive sector is that it is geared to exports, in which we are also world leaders, with 65% of the total marketed being exported, and with a presence in over 160 countries on five continents. The United States is our main market with close to 25% of our exports. With an export coverage ratio of 2,600%, the exports in the 2015/16 season were at average levels (320,000 tonnes).

Spain is the world's leading country in terms of land used for vineyards for winemaking, and the world's third-largest wine producer. The land used for vineyards in Spain accounts for 7% of all cropland. In 2015, 958,697 hectares were being used for this purpose (51% red grape varieties, 45% white grape varieties, and 4% variety mixtures).

Wine and grape juice production in the 2014-2015 season amounted to 41 million hectolitres, 7.8% less than the previous season.

Of the average production by Spain in the last four seasons, approximately 51% are wines with no Geographic Indication, 30% are wines with Protected Designation of Origin status (Spanish acronym: DOP), 7% are wines with Protected Geographic Indication status (Spanish acronym: IGP) and 12% are grape juices.

Cultivo de la vid (B. Domínguez, Ministerio de Agricultura y Pesca, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente)Wine is a product with a positive trade balance. In 2013, Spanish wine and grape juice exports by volume amounted to 21 million hectolitres (15% less than in 2012), at a value of 2.88 billion euros (5% more than in 2012), with wine accounting for 90% of the total. Wine and grape juice account for a 2.6-billion euro surplus in the trade balance.

The main destination for Spanish exports is the European Union market, with France and Germany as the top buyers. Beyond the EU, it is worth highlighting exports to the United States, China and Russia.

There is an upward trend in packaged wine exports and this is even more acute in exported wines with Protected Designation of Origin status (DOP). There has also been an increase in the proportion of exported DOP wines over the total.

Owing to their high adaptability to different soil types and climate conditions, as well as their energy and nutritional value, cereals are a key component in human and animal nutrition.

20122013(Provisional)2014 (Early data)Average 5 cc (09/13)
(Mha)(M t)(t/ha)(Mha)(M t)(t/ha)(Mha)(M t)(t/ha)(Mha)(M t)(t/ha)

Soft wheat

Durum wheat0.410.51.220.340.912.650.30.792.670.430.942.18
Total barley2.695.962.212.7710.063.632.796.932.492.817.952.83
Total/Average performance616.63.186.0724.384.296.1319.453.955.9319.573.74

Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Affairs.

Spain is a net importer of cereals, with an average structural deficit from the trade balance in the last five seasons of 10 million tonnes. The volume of imported cereal is affected by harvest variability each season. Essentially, Spain has a deficit in soft wheat and corn, with annual imports of 4.3 and 5.3 million tonnes, respectively, as an average from the last five seasons. The estimated cereal output (excluding rice) for 2015 stands at 18.64 million tonnes, down 4.7% on 2014.

In turn, the trade balance is positive for rice, with average exports in the last five seasons of 234,700 tonnes compared with average imports of 97,500 tonnes. Rice production in 2015 is estimated at 843,000 tonnes, down 2.4% on 2014, from an area of 109,200 hectares (0.9% less than the previous year).

Livestock production

The value of livestock production in 2014 amounted to 32.5 billion euros, accounting for 38,3% of all farming output.

The leading livestock sector in Spain is the pork industry, which contributes 37% of the total value of livestock output. Spain is Europe's second-largest producer, behind Germany, with a census of 26.5 million animals. It is also the most active sector in the international markets, since Spain's total pork exports have increased to 39% of domestic output. Over the past six years, total pork industry exports have increased by more than 100%. A new all-time record was set in 2014, with over 1.5 million tonnes exported.

Ganado porcino (Joaquín Terán, Ministerio de Agricultura y Pesca, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente)In 2014, milk production accounted for 19,8% of livestock output, with a census of over 876.140 milking cows.

With an animal population of approximately six million, the production of beef and veal represented 15% of livestock production in 2014. Next in economic significance is the poultry sector, with 15% in 2014.

The sheep and goat sector, with a census of 19.8 million heads (16.8 million head of sheep and 3 million head of goats), accounted for 5% of livestock output. The egg sector accounted for 5% of livestock output.

Beyond its economic significance, the beekeeping sector is essential due to its environmental role and contribution to ecological balance, as well as its contribution to improving and maintaining biodiversity. Honey production in Spain amounted to 30,600 tonnes in 2013.

Elsewhere, rabbit meat was one of the leading segments within the so-called "minor sectors" of primary livestock production. With an output of 64.281 tonnes in 2014, this sector is proving to be a significant development driver in production areas, which are highly concentrated in certain mainland territories.

In 2013, the trade balance of the main livestock products was positive as regards meat and offal, processed meat, eggs, honey and other products of animal origin. In contrast, the trade balance for the milk and dairy sector was negative.

The livestock sector is turning to quality-led products in accordance with the European production model, which is based on high food safety standards and respect for the environment and animal welfare, while remaining consistent with the sustainable use of natural resources.

Also mindful that innovation is the most appropriate way to increase competitiveness in the European production model, an initiative to finance applied research projects and innovation in livestock production has been drawn up and implemented since 2013. The fundamental goal of this initiative is to improve the competitiveness of farming operations by increasing revenue or decreasing expenditure through innovation.

Spanish fisheries

Spain has made stringent efforts to adapt the size of its fishing fleet to the potential of fishing grounds with a view to ensuring their sustainability within the European Union framework. As at 31 December 2014, the Spanish fleet comprised 9,635 ships, of which 9,304 operate in Spanish fishing grounds while 331 operate in EU and non-EU fishing grounds (Operational Fishing Fleet Census Data).

Spain is one of the countries posting the highest fish consumption per capita at close to 39 kg/year in 2014 - far in excess of the European Union average. Hence, the output from Spanish fisheries is unable to satisfy market demand and a high percentage must be imported.

Furthermore, Spain is one of the world's ten leading countries by marketed value of fishery products in international trade. In 2014, imports from non-EU countries amounted to 1.58 million tonnes, with a total value of 5.2 billion euros. 33% of this amount came from China, Argentina, Morocco and Ecuador. Exports amounted to 1.06 million tonnes, with a total value of 2983.4 million euros. The rate of coverage stands at 22%. The rate of coverage for Spanish trade exchanges with EU countries stands at 144%. Italy, Portugal and France are the main destination countries for Spanish produce.

The rate of coverage for Spanish trade exchanges with EU countries stands at 144%. Italy, Portugal and France are the main countries.

Within the framework of the Common Fisheries Policy, the structural measures are aimed at guaranteeing an effective balance between fishing fleet capacity and real fishing options. To do so, a report is drafted every year that reflects the balance status of all parts of the fleet. This report contains an action plan for any segments that are out of balance and the various measures needed to reverse that situation.

Specific measures have been developed for those fleets in stable balance with a view to encouraging their renewal. The ultimate goal of these measures is to maintain a technologically advanced fleet enabling sustainable operation of fish stocks. Royal Decree 790/2015, of 4 September, was enacted to this end, which governs a raft of measures targeting the tuna fleet operating in long-distance fishing grounds and recorded in the operational fishing fleet census as purse seine freezer vessels. Royal Decree 1586/2012, of 23 November, was also enacted to amend Royal Decree 1549/2009, on the organisation of the fishing sector to establish a series of measures - in force until 24 November 2016 - that will facilitate renewal of the Spanish fishing fleet.

Similarly, Royal Decree 36/2014, of 24 January, was enacted to regulate professional qualifications in the fishing sector by adapting these qualifications to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel (Convention STW-F, 1995) and recasting the various regulatory texts currently in force into a single text.

Finally, Spain's Operational Programme from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund was adopted via the European Commission decision of 13 November 2015. With a European fund allocation of 1.16 billion euros, Spain continues to be the leading recipient of fishing funds in spite of budget cuts.

Flota pesquera (Joaquín Terán, Ministerio de Agricultura y Pesca, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente)In accordance with national and EU laws and regulations, the Spanish Vessel Monitoring System enables the competent authorities to obtain satellite positioning of all fishing ships of a length exceeding 15 metres by means of "blue boxes". In turn, the On-board Electronic Logbook also complies with said regulations and provides information via satellite about the fishing activity undertaken by those ships of the same length or above.

Both sets of data are automatically re-transmitted to other coastal countries where the Spanish fleet is operating, whether EU Member States or non-EU countries with which electronic data transfer has been agreed under the relevant fishery agreements with the European Union. Similarly, this type of data is received from ships sailing under other EU flags when they operate in Spanish waters and unload at Spanish ports.

All this information is received and analysed at Monitoring Centres, thus enabling fleet activity to be monitored in real time as these centres are manned 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. On-site controls and inspections can also be planned using this data.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that these Monitoring Centres represent a benchmark in Europe and worldwide not only due to their technology but also their scope, given that they receive a signal from over 2,000 Spanish ships fitted with the two devices.

Furthermore, the General Secretariat of Fisheries has a fleet of research and oceanography vessels to support the fishing sector: the Emma Bardán, the Vizconde de Eza and the Miguel Oliver. This fleet provides the most accurate and reliable tool to evaluate and ascertain the state of the various stocks of fishing interest, the habitat and marine reserves through multidisciplinary fishery assessment and cartography campaigns.

As regards fisheries management resources, these are governed by the new Common Fisheries Policy adopted under Regulation (EU) 1380/2013, of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 11 December, in which the major challenges are maximum sustainable yield (which must be obtained in 2015 if possible and no later than 2020) and the prohibition of discards (for which a gradual adoption schedule has been established depending on the fishery in question). This guarantees fishery management based on the best scientific reports available, while always considering the socioeconomic conditions that make the fishing sector as a whole sustainable, viable and competitive. All this falls within the regionalisation framework and the drawing up of multi-annual plans, as well as the eco-systemic approach.

Within the framework of the new Common Fisheries Policy, Spain is working hard to implement the new requirements and, in this regard, has achieved the adoption of important flexibility mechanisms regarding application of the discard ban policy and a delay to the application schedule that postpones full implementation until 2019. The Member States are drafting discard plans for approval by the European Commission as part of the focus on regionalisation. Spain is working on three regional groups: one for the north-west waters; another for the south-west waters; and a third for the Mediterranean waters. Plans for the pelagic fisheries have been drafted within these groups and they have already been approved.

The State board for the elimination of discards was also set up in 2015, a standing mechanism for dialogue and cooperation between the fishing sector, science, NGOs and administration services aimed at guaranteeing the successful application of this measure.

These measures, as well as the temporary flexibility in reaching Maximum Sustainable Yield, are fundamental to softening the impact of this reform on our fishing sector, thereby enabling it to fully adapt to the new EU acquis.

Furthermore, the process to review and update domestic legislation on national fishing grounds was concluded this year with publication of the Royal Decree on Organisation of the Canary Island Fishing Ground. This has brought legal certainty and clarity to Spanish operators by compiling all prior legislation and establishing new management tools based on quota distribution at varying levels.


In parallel to conventional fisheries, the aquaculture sector has experienced extraordinary growth in Spain. The extent of productive and technological development in recent years has made aquaculture a source of food that supplements conventional fishing and greatly benefits the sustainability of fish stocks.

The production of marine and continental aquaculture species amounted to 305.735 tonnes in 2014, of which 241.479 tonnes correspond to mussels and 64.256 tonnes correspond to other fish, mollusc and crustacean species. Within the fish species, 16,068 tonnes correspond to gilthead bream, 16.320 tonnes correspond to sea bass and 7.891 tonnes correspond to turbot. In terms of continental aquaculture, it is worth highlighting the 14,009 tonnes of rainbow trout. (Source: JACUMAR website).

In 2014, Spain approved the Spanish Aquaculture Strategic Plan 2014-2020. The goals of this plan include guaranteeing the economic, social and environmental sustainability of aquaculture in the medium term by increasing aquaculture production, as well as ensuring its development under conditions capable of guaranteeing its full integration into the environment where this activity is carried on. This plan has been allocated a total of 211 million euros from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to meet such ambitions targets.

Furthermore, work on drafting the Aquaculture Act is nearing completion. This will update the existing legal framework to include continental aquaculture in Spanish legislation for the first time.

The Spanish agri-food system: national food policy

The global strategy for food policy is to improve the marketing and quality of agri-food products.

Support for the values of agri-food quality and organic farming, as well as a balance in the value chain, are aspects of this policy that help frame the basic rules for this economic sector.

Industria alimentaria "Esther Murcia" (B. Domínguez, Ministerio de Agricultura y Pesca, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente)The Spanish system of differentiated quality linked to geographical origin, tradition and organic farming methods, which integrates the recognised quality hallmarks that underpin the reputation of Spanish output, constitutes an effective tool for improving the competitiveness of Spanish businesses.

Agri-food trade exchanges from 2011 to 2013, set out in the table below, show a positive trade balance for Spain. The strengths lie in the quality and competitiveness of Spanish products.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Affairs is working to improve the structure and operation of the food chain so as to enhance the effectiveness and competitiveness of the agri-food sector and thus achieve a better balance in trade relations between the various operators in the value chain. In the summer of 2013, these efforts culminated in the approval of two laws: Law 12/2013, of 2 August, on measures to improve food chain operations and Law 13/2013, of 2 August, on fostering the integration of cooperatives and other associative entities of an agri-food nature.

As regards Law 12/2013, of 2 August, which created the Food Information and Control Agency (Spanish acronym: AICA) to monitor failures to comply with the law and grant powers to propose penalties, with approval from the Council of Ministers on 6 February for the Legal Implementing Regulation, the enactment thereof is completed and all the necessary elements are provided for correcting the imbalances in trade relations by the companies that operate in the food chain.

A further goal is to follow the recommendations issued by the National Competition Commission in its Report on relations between manufacturers and distributors in the food sector of 5 October 2011.

YearExports (ME)Imports (ME)Balance (ME)Coverage (%)

Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Affairs based on Customs Statistics (AEAT).