Difficult times for Spanish cereal producers. In addition to a historic harvest reduced by the drought that Cooperativas Agroalimentarias and ACCOE estimate at around 9 million tons, there is now added the concern among market operators (traders, stockists, manufacturers of animal feed…) due to the “labor conflict “with the stevedores who would arrive at the main entrance gate for imported cereal: the Port of Tarragona. Industry sources consulted by this means hope that there will be a solution before next August, “when the corn from Argentina and Brazil arrives.” From the majority union force, the State Coordinator of Sea Workers (CETM) of the V Agreement for the Regulation of Labor Relations in the Sector endorsed on November 17 by a ruling of the National Court.
The cited sources explain that, starting in August, the “peak” of cereal imported from markets such as Brazil and Argentina begins. Then, during the first half of 2024, Ukraine’s grain will take over again if the Black Sea Corridor is renewed. From the sector they even go so far as to speak of “a sit-down strike” and criticize “an unloading order that harms us.” In any case, the sources consulted fear the formation of “a funnel or bottleneck” with the grain. In this regard, I recognize these interlocutors, who have already held a recent meeting on this issue with representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, “who are also concerned.”
For experts such as the general director of MercaLleida, Miquel Ángel Bergés, “Spain is a deficient country and will have to import more time, so the key will be in logistics, unloading speed, rotation and transport to get the cereal, in time, to the factory of thought”. Specifically, according to the ‘Balance of Cereals in Spain’ for the 2022/2023 campaign, the Ministry of Agriculture estimates total needs of 35.85 million tons of cereals. Of this amount, some 26.35 million will be for animal feed. For what will be missing, at least, the importation of 18 million tons of cereals.
“Spain is a deficient country and will have to import more time, so the key will be in logistics, unloading speed, and transport to get the cereal to the feed factory”, Miguel Ángel Bergés (MercaLleida)
ALL THESE CONCERNS WILL BE VERBALIZED THIS WEDNESDAY IN A PRESS RELEASE convened at the Tarragona Yacht Club, to the Ió Catalana de Fabricants d’Alments Compostos (Asfac), ITS National Counterpart, the Spanish Confederation of Compound Food Manufacturers for animals (Cesfac); as well as the Association of Trade of Grains and Oilseeds of Spain (ACCOE) and the Spanish Association of Foreign Trade of Grains and Similar Products (AECEC).
Tarragona, the main ‘gate’ for imported cereal
Why is what happens in the Port of Tarragona so important to feed the cattle? The sources of the sector consulted by this means emphasize that the Catalan port “is close to the large Spanish pig farms, which are mostly in Catalonia, and which also get their supplies from France.” In this sense, they emphasize that it is the “cereal port par excellence”. It also influences the fact that Tarragona is being one of the main destinations for freight that brings Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, whose corridor may be closed on July 18 if Russia complies with its repeated threats. As La Información has published, with data from the Ukrainian Grain Organization, Spain is by far the second largest beneficiary with 5.85 million tons of cereal imported since August 1, 2022.
In any case, the statistics offered by the Tarragona Port Authority itself make the weight of cereal in its activity very clear: the Catalan market was in fifth position in the ranking of ports of the state system with 11.2 million tons unloaded between January and April of this year. Only behind Algeciras (35 million tons), Valencia (25 million), Barcelona (21 million) and Cartagena (13 million). What was improved thanks to the greater entry of merchandise such as cereals, feed and flour, which shot up 31% compared to the same period in 2022: 2.63 million tons this year compared to 1.89 million the previous year.
Only in the first quarter of this year, in the Port of Tarragona, 1.8 million tons of grain were unloaded. This is 65.9% more than in the same period of 2022
In the month of March alone, 529,000 tons of cereal were unloaded in this port, more than triple what was introduced in the same month last year (the Black Sea Corridor did not yet exist). This meant, in the first quarter of the year, a total traffic of 1.8 million tons of grain and a growth of 65.9% compared to the same period of 2022. In addition to the best result of the previous 12 months: 4.97 million tons accumulated.