Interview with Jaume Blancafort, President of Confecarne
June 26, 2009
According to recent data, the meat industry is almost 2% of Spanish total GDP. It is one of the sectors within the food industry that is better holding the pull of the crisis?
The meat industry is the fourth industrial sector of this country. Although a distance from them, we are just behind the car industry, the electrical energy sector and oil and fuel industry. All these sectors are getting, obviously a great support from the Government, before and now during the crisis.
On the contrary, our sector is browsing the crisis in a palpable solitude, though our socio-economic relevance is not negligible, and that should be taken into account by our rulers. We not only represent 2 per cent of GDP in our country, but 14% if we refer to the industrial GDP.
It should be noted that I am not speaking only of the viability of our companies, but the future of the very important sector of primary production. Of this activity depend on Spain, according to the FAO, more than 2.5 million people, of which a very important part corresponds to the activity related to the chain of production of meat, of which our industry is only the last link.
For this reason, we want that from the Administration the measures necessary to facilitate our industries the traffic for this complicated economic situation, as it is being done with other economic sectors of importance was reasserted.
What are the main problems which is currently suffering the meat industry?
As it is well known, the crisis generated a lower purchasing power widespread, with declines in consumption, increased competition and tightening of conditions for access to external markets, etc. And all this is drawing, along with other factors, a very difficult financial situation in enterprises.
According to recent data, more than 80% of SMEs has serious difficulties to access to credit, which is drowning the entire chain of production: farmers, industrialists and customers. It is therefore essential to ensure that companies have access to bank financing enabling them to provide the liquidity they need for their economic activity.
Is proposed from the sector the creation of a line of guarantees of the State combined with an instrument of market regulation, so that the manufacturers almacenarían excesses of production for a set time, withdrawing the offer in the marketpignorando those stocks stored as a sufficient guarantee to cover the guarantee. This will allow to obtain bank financing for the circulating necessary for the acquisition of raw materials to farmers.
Also there to deal with other measures that also affect the financial capacity of enterprises. On the one hand, it is necessary is to expedite the return of the VAT on exports, which is penalizing companies that have opted for the export. And, on the other hand, we still insist on the forced reduction of long payment terms applied by the mass distribution.
They are already figures of how influenza has affected Spanish pig?
Fortunately, the management of this problem by the Spanish health authorities and their impact on the media has been quite reasonable, keeping, except for sporadic cases, the 'new flu' out of the pig, making it clear that this is a human diseasenot swine, as expressed repeatedly the Office International des Epizooties (OIE), FAO, the World Health Organization, the European Union, the world of science, etc.
However, we must remain vigilant so that not to be introduced concerns or doubts in public opinion, even in an indirect way, without any objective reason and scientific evidence, that as we know they move quickly to decisions of consumption and can contribute to cause serious harm to a sector such as the meat.
One of the most appreciated in our country is the Iberian, is this sector suffering in a special way the economic crisis?
A so emblematic sector of our gastronomy as the Iberian pig is a multiple crisis production, consumption, costs, etc., but above all of identity. The gravity of the situation threatens to do away with the traditional Iberian sector, understanding as such which is linked to the extensive production in the peninsular Southeast, following the failure of the 'standard quality of the Iberian pig' in the objective initial chasingthat they were not others that protect the ecosystem of the dehesa and the Iberian pigs sustained in it.
It is urgent to resolve this situation, differing in the market, prestige and adding value to traditional productions, through the establishment of a figure of quality differentiated from the European Union, which also protected at the international level to the Iberian pig.
To this end, we are asking from the industry (grouped in Iberaice) and the interprofessional Association, the creation of a protected geographical indication for the Iberian pigs of the Meadow, covering the southwest of Spain and Portugal. On the other hand, he is forced to work in the promotion of the consumption, both in Spain and in other countries, in the knowledge of the Iberian products, nutritional characteristics, and in the reality of its price.
Sectors such as agriculture continually alleged intrusion into the European markets of products from third countries that do not meet the same requirements that have to make the elaborate here. It is a situation that also extends to the meat industry?
In fact, this is a situation which suffers in a special way the meat industry. Our meat and derived products must meet the highest requirements of food safety, traceability and control for both accessing our internal market (European Union), as to those of third countries.
For this reason, it is essential to require that all meat products marketed in the European markets have the same health and hygiene and control requirements. And this is why a double of obvious importance. A party, the safety of consumers, and other, for our firms compete under equal economic conditions with other countries with access to our markets.
One of the continuing complaints from the sector has been the excessive increase in electricity bills, in how far is this excessive cost affecting a conglomerate of companies such as the SMEs involved in the meat industry?
The electric bill is one of the most important costs for a meat industry, taking into account that in our factories much of the facilities are working with electricity 24 hours a day: Chambers of cold (refrigeration or freezing)the drying, etc., do not stop ever.
Small and medium-sized industries have been, defenceless, how in the past year your electricity bill has increased in impossible to take percentages. That is why, from our organizations we are working to try to optimize the costs of the electricity supply of our partners through the pooling of demand, the search for the best conditions of billing and service through specialized operators, discounts, etc.
Found a great solution is the foreign promotion of our meat products. What work is being carried out in this connection from Governments or institutions as Confecarne?
The export is important strategically for our meat sectors and especially for the pig sector. In 2008, the meat sector exported more than 1.3 million tons of products, becoming the first exporter of the food industry. Foreign trade is essential for the economic balance of these sectors, because the production potential of the meat chain, along with the fall in domestic consumption and the maturity of our market, make it necessary to be more effective in the export. The future is in it.
And despite the fact that moving and the situation has improved in recent years much in relation to other previous periods, and that is consolidating some markets of great interest such as Japan, the situation is far from being adequate.
For this reason, we consider it essential that they are used all the means necessary for the opening and consolidation of new markets. You have to be more effective and agile at the opening of these countries, by eliminating barriers to trade which usually occur. The joint and coordinated action for agriculture and trade, and increased activity of commercial offices must be.
Do in what sense has it benefited the meat industry have been incorporated last year to the Spanish technological platform?
The activity of r & d in the meat sector is a constant for the own technological complexity of our industry, but even so, the fact that our business is formed in large part, as have said, by small and medium-sized enterprises, makes increasing rates of r & d of the meat industry a pending subject in which we are overturned.
The competitiveness of our industries is a key factor for development, in a context of industrial and commercial ever more globalized, demanding and complicated makes it inescapable induce a culture conducive to innovative investments in the meat sector and facilitate the participation of enterprises in the programsnational and international r & d.
And when I speak of these strategies of technological innovation and investment, I mean extremely important aspects for our sector as the optimization of the already very high technological levels of control and food security, energy efficiency of facilities, the improvement of the environmental conditions of industries, advances in safety and industrial hygiene, etc. This, along with the new nutritional requirements by the consumer, the structural changes in societies like ours, in terms of trends and segmentation of consumer groups, or the growing complexity of the markets.