It is one of the emblems of the Spain brand. At the moment, unique in the world. And from the Iberian pig to their gait they are elegant. Little by little, Iberian ham has been gaining space in gourmet shops and restaurants most exclusive on the planet. Including Spain, the main consumer market for Iberian products, an industry that moves 2,000 million euros a year, and that represents 8% of the Spanish meat industry, the fourth industrial sector in the country.
The data is offered Antonio Prieto, president of the Interprofessional Association of the Iberian Pig (Asici), who assures that the pandemic has slowed international expansion, although exports last year barely fell 0.3%. If compared to the growth rate from 25% in 2015 represents a considerable setback.
However, what has collapsed is domestic consumption, mainly due to the closure and restrictions in the hotel industry, one of the main sales channels for Iberian producers. “It is being a tsunami, and it is affecting the companies that are dedicated to it in different ways,” he says. Tanacho Carrasco, CEO of Iberian Carrasco, who assures that “Those of us who have more brands and focus more on catering are suffering more than the brands that are in supermarkets, those that sell bait products.”
It also estimates that the drop in sales in 2020 was between 35 and 40%. “And that is outrageous, because in the previous crisis, in 2008, the decline was gradual until 2013, a period in which the sector lost 60% of volume,” says Carrasco, in relation to the number of sacrifices that were made before that date, around five million, and compared to the two million pigs slaughtered in 2012. “An exaggerated volume, but we came from years of significant growth, crazy.” And he adds that the fall in prices will be between 25 and 30% compared to 2019. “It is a slap that we are taking.”
More prudent in terms of the decrease in the figures is shown Eva Sanchez, communication director of Fisan, who details the decline between 10 and 15%. “Our raw material has a high price and since it is not consumed due to the restrictions of the hospitality industry, it has had to go down. Nor have there been any celebrations, and that has been noticed, because at any wedding there is always a ham ”. The president of Asici speaks of the same percentage, who sets both the decrease in sales and prices in those margins in the global average of the sector, in which they are registered 16,902 livestock farms, 70 slaughterhouses and more than 900 processing and marketing industries of Iberico. “Prices cannot continue to fall, it can be done by accommodating at a specific moment, by structuring the sale, but it is not logical, and it could be ruin, because a product has three and five years of production, between aging and healing, ”says Prieto. But in the face of adversity, what most companies have done is vget into the online business. “We know that you have to adapt to the circumstances, and the sale in delicatessens responded well at Christmas, but we had to give the online store a boost. This crisis has helped us to digitize ourselves, ”says Sánchez.
In fact, the growth of online commerce in this industry, according to data from the aforementioned association, has increased in this time by 150%, “and although it does not repair what has not been sold in the restoration, it mitigates the fall”, says Prieto . However, there are those who believe that the virtual store is not the panacea for this type of product.
Affirms it Jose Gomez, brand manager from Joselito, who assures that the Spanish market is destroyed. “The ham is to be touched, it is from a physical store and the sale in this type of establishment has worked well in the pandemic. Despite the drop in the hotel industry, we have not touched prices, and we are weathering the crisis because we already had a structure in place in the foreign market, where we have risen by about 40% and we are present in 57 countries ”. The crisis has allowed them to sharpen their ingenuity and launch a new line of cooked dishes on the market through the Joselito Eats brand.
Reinvention also speaks Francisco Asparagus, President of Señorío de Montanera, which given the lack of consumption in the hotel industry of the meat of some pigs, which had been slaughtered in February, had no choice but to adapt it for the private client. “We are committed to having a good final sales network and a good online sale, in addition to industrial diversification,” says the producer, who points out another of the tables of salvation for your company, such as the Asian market. “We have demand in Korea, Japan and China, although in Spain I think this year is going to be bad, because until we have a strong vaccination and a clean country, tourists will not come,” he says.
It is also foreseen by Tanacho Carrasco, who places the recovery in 2025, “until then we will not return to the 2019 figures”, and observes another relevant fact such as the decrease in production, since, in his opinion, it will be sacrificed between the 5 or 10% fewer animals. This is confirmed by the spokesperson for Asici, who estimates that they walk around the meadows of Spain 700,000 acorn pigs: “With the health situation, the farmers restructured and removed animals because they knew they were not going to buy them or they would buy them cheaper. There was a readjustment in the production of the animals that had to be fattened. And the most bleeding thing is that prices are already below other years. The at [11,5 kilos] of the animal was sold between 30 and 35 euros and this year between 22 and 27 euros ”.
And the worst thing, says Prieto, is that these animals no longer recover. Within the drag that the hospitality crisis is having, it is expected that this year the Iberian pig industry will enter 1,800 million euros, mainly through proximity trade, the virtual store and the foreign market, with the eyes set on China.