The Chinese dumping investigation is a new test for the resilience of Spanish pig farmers

By Corina Pons, Emma Pinedo and Charlie Devereux

MADRID (Reuters) – China’s dumping investigation into EU pork imports following tariffs on Chinese EVs has tested Spanish pig farmers this week, but the sector has proven to be resilient and far less vulnerable than Spain’s car industry the block.

Spain supplied 22% of China’s pork imports in 2023, worth 1.2 billion euros ($1.29 billion), and stands to lose more than any member of the bloc to the investigation into underpriced pork, after the EU last week targeted Chinese subsidized imports of electric vehicles.

“It was like a shock of cold water, we didn’t expect it,” said Giuseppe Aloisio, general director of the National Association of Spanish Meat Industries (ANICE), about the announcement.

“This is a concern because the volume is significant, but it will not bankrupt the pork sector if the Chinese eventually decide to impose tariffs,” he added.

The investigation was prompted by a complaint from the China Animal Husbandry Association on behalf of the domestic pork industry, China said, without providing further details.

The subsidies received by the pork industry are in line with World Trade Organization rules, Spanish Agriculture Minister Luis Planas said at a press conference on Tuesday, adding that Spain is talking to the EU about possible solutions.

Since the investigation will likely last at least a year, there is plenty of time for negotiation.

However, Spain’s pork sector has proven resilient, and the greater strategic importance of the car industry – Europe’s second largest after Germany – means Spain is unlikely to try to push the EU to back off its measures against Chinese electric vehicles despite the threat of pork tariffs, said Miguel Otero, senior analyst at Elcano Royal Institute in Madrid.

European carmakers are being challenged by an influx of cheaper electric vehicles from Chinese rivals. The European Commission estimates that their share of the EU market has risen from less than 1% in 2019 to 8% and prices are typically 20% below those of EU-made models.


“If the trade-off is you’re not going to export pork to China, but you leave the auto industry as it is or you expand it, then you’re sacrificing the pork,” Otero said.

Spain has not yet expressed a position on EV tariffs. The Ministry of Economic Affairs declined to comment.

According to the Spanish Foreign Trade Institute (ICEX), cars and car parts accounted for 18% of total Spanish exports and 10% of gross domestic product in 2023. According to the Spanish Automakers Association, the industry was worth around 40 billion euros.

According to McKinsey & Company, the EU imposed additional duties on Chinese electric vehicles on June 12 to combat what it says are excessive subsidies and protect an industry worth more than 1 trillion euros.

Spain’s pork industry, meanwhile, resisted import bans from Russia over swine flu fears in 2009 and 2013 and after EU sanctions were imposed on Russia in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea.

Russia was Spain’s biggest customer outside the EU in 2012, importing frozen pork worth 153 million euros before falling to just 180,000 euros in 2014.

The sector is ready to focus on other markets again, just like in Russia, says Alberto Herranz, director of the Spanish pork producers’ association Interporc.

“When the Russian market was closed, we did not cry to the European Union, nor to the Ministry of Agriculture, but what we did was take a step forward and look for diversification,” Herranz said.

Trade with China picked up just as exports to Russia came to a standstill. Spain’s exports of frozen pork to China peaked at 2.5 billion euros in 2020 after a swine flu outbreak devastated Chinese domestic production.

Although China is still the largest market, exports have declined since then and are expected to continue to decline as Chinese production returns to normal. Meanwhile, exporters are already making contingency plans to allow other Asian markets such as Japan, South Korea and the Philippines to grow, according to data from ICEX.

Still, the bloc’s biggest pork producer, which has benefited from the swine fever that has hit German production, feels aggrieved that it has become collateral damage in a fight between two of the world’s biggest trading powers, ANICE’s Aloisio said.

“We see ourselves as spectators and victims of a train wreck between major economic powers, and we are beginning to pay the price,” he said.

But China’s response could have been much worse, given that the pork industry makes up a small percentage of EU exports to China and producers have time to adapt, indicating a reluctance to take up the fight , Eurointelligence analysts wrote in a note.

“It could show that China is willing to make a deal with the EU on the tariffs, rather than treating them as the opening salvo of a trade war,” Eurointelligence said.

($1 = 0.9312 euros)

(Additional reporting by Inti Landauro and Belen Carreño; Writing by Charlie Devereux; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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