A top-level business delegation from Saudi Arabia took part in a five-day trade mission to Spain focusing on the meat industry.
The trip, hosted by the Spanish meat production sector’s Interprofessional Organization of Beef Cattle (Provacuno), followed a reciprocal visit to the Kingdom last year.
Representatives of the Saudi media and meat trade toured farms, feed mills, slaughterhouses, and meat markets in and around the Spanish capital Madrid, to see the latest high-quality, environmentally-friendly beef production methods.
A non-profit organization officially recognized by the Spanish government, Provacuno represents 85 percent of the Spanish beef industry. Established in 1997, it is comprised of national associations working to protect the interests of companies involved in Spain’s meat production, industrial, and commercial sectors.
Saudi Arabia only reopened its market to Spanish beef three years ago after stopping imports in 2001 as a result of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease) outbreak.
With the Kingdom being one of the highest meat-consuming nations in the world, Provacuno sees it as a key target market. In 2017 Spanish beef exports to Saudi Arabia were valued at €680,000 ($768,000). In the same year, the Kingdom produced 60,000 tons of meat while consuming over 220,000 tons. Brazil, India, Australia and Pakistan currently dominate the beef imports market to Saudi.
However, Provacuno hopes to step up its trade links with the Kingdom and has embarked on a three-year promotional tour showcasing Spain’s beef industry in not only Saudi Arabia, but other countries including the UAE, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.
During a presentation to the Saudi delegation at Provacuno’s headquarters in Madrid, its market research and training manager, Alvaro Espejo León, explained to Arab News the organization’s market strategy for the Kingdom.
“While Brazil and India control most of the Saudi beef market, we do not share the same market strategy as them,” León said. “They are focused on a different target market. They don’t represent our segment or our target client. Our strategy is not aimed towards restaurants, but rather five-star hotels and supermarkets like Danube and Manuel.”
Provacuno representatives visited the Kingdom in November last year as part of their promotional campaign “What a Wonderful European Beef,” which concluded at Jeddah’s Foodex.
On the return leg to Spain, the Saudi trade delegates spent their first day touring fattening farms and feed mills in the cities of Lleida and Huesca. Provacuno’s cuts of meat are categorized based on breed of cattle and age of slaughter.
At the Agropienso feed manufacturing plant in Huesca, the Saudi party was shown how cattle are fed grain with a high-grade nutritional value cereal and oil-seed.
With the goal of enhancing the Spanish beef industry’s image through sustainable and environmentally-friendly production processes, Provacuno maintains a firm compliance with strict European production requirements on food safety standards. Tough rules surrounding animal welfare, hygiene control, and environmental protection also cater for international markets like Saudi Arabia by offering meat that is 100 percent halal certified.
The Spanish hosts also introduced their Saudi guests to the Almameat group, which encompasses livestock production, slaughterhouses, and cutting plants all operating with the latest technology. Almameat has over 500 cattle breeders, and a weekly meat production capacity estimated at more than 1,000 tons. Its modern cooling facilities can hold up to 2,500 cow and sheep carcasses daily.
A visit to the giant Mercamadrid meat market gave the Saudi delegation a glimpse into the final commercialized phase of beef production – buying, selling, and trade.
Mercamadrid is the largest perishable foods market in Europe with a total area of more than 220 hectares. It houses over 900 independent firms and provides food for 12 million consumers living within a 500 km radius.
With the risk of BSE now officially considered negligible in Spain, Provacuno has been experiencing an upward trend in exports of meat products in recent years. Provacuno’s annual meat production exceeds 650,000 metric tons. It has more than 110,000 farms, with industry exports amounting to 175,000 metric tons annually. For the past 20 years, the organization has been officially recognized by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, as an agro-food interprofessional body.
According to UN trade figures, beef consumption in Saudi Arabia has increased steadily in recent years after a consecutive decreasing trend between 2012 and 2016. Currently, the EU is the second-largest annual producer of beef in the world at more than 8 million metric tons. Spain’s main beef exports are to Turkey, Hong Kong, Israel, Lebanon, and Ghana.
Japan’s wagyu beef looks to conquer the worldAustralia — a reliable source of halal beef and lamb