The granary of Spain holds its breath due to the conflict in Ukraine | Economy

Grain warehouses in the port of Tarragona.
Grain warehouses in the port of Tarragona.Josep LLuis Sellart

The port of Tarragona dispatches nine million tons of crude oil each year and moves another ten million tons of fuel, butane, propane and various products from a complete chemical and oil assortment. The infrastructure is essential in the distribution tasks of the huge volume of materials generated by the hyperactive petrochemical polygon. But, beyond chemistry, the port of Tarragona is one of the main breadbaskets in Spain. It receives between four and six million tons of agri-food shipments a year, “basically cereals”, specifies a spokesman for the port. Ukraine plays a key role as a source of fodder supply, and the trafficking crisis caused by the invasion of the country by Russia sows uncertainties in the commercial flow for the coming months. From the Catalan port it is noted that grain stocks are guaranteed. At least temporarily, since Ukraine has already banned corn exports.

The outbreak of the war occurred just when the ships from the Ukraine had unloaded most of the annual grain quota in Tarragona. “Between November of last year and February of this year, we received 908,000 tons of Ukrainian grain,” indicate sources at the port. A detailed breakdown of the type of merchandise that was unloaded is not provided, but it is noted that in the port warehouses there is, fundamentally, “wheat, corn and animal feed”. The counts of the port place the reserves at 80%, and square with the statements of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, who assured in a meeting with agrarian organizations that there is currently no risk of shortages. Planas revealed data that sought to support a call for calm, and presented the port of Tarragona as the most important port of entry for corn in Spain. He said there are enough stocks to guarantee supplies until mid-April, at least.

The cereal that is unloaded in Tarragona is mainly destined for Lleida and Aragón. These are areas where large livestock farms are concentrated, as well as several of the controversial macro-farms, and industrial centers for the production of feed. Grain shipments leave the port in trucks or loaded onto rail cars. “The movement is continuous,” says a worker from the port authority, ruling out that the Ukrainian invasion, and the blockade of its cereal exports, have slowed down the remittances that leave the dock.

The port points out that the crisis due to the armed conflict may have a delayed effect. “We must bear in mind that the import of cereals and fodder fluctuates throughout the year. It is not a stable traffic because it depends on the harvest periods in the producing countries. The cycles go from November to February or March, which represents the highest peak. The off-peak period is from April to July, in August and September there is a spike and then it drops again until November”, details Genoveva Climent, commercial and business development director of the Port Authority of Tarragona.

Meanwhile, the Generalitat de Catalunya is considering a complicated scenario for the supply of cereals. A report by Acció, the public agency to promote the company’s competitiveness, notes a “great dependence on certain products from Ukraine.” And it lists sunflower oil, rapeseed and corn. In an extensive opinion made public this Wednesday, Acció technicians highlight that interference in the supply of cereals can affect pig and chicken farms, and cause a “very important” price increase, which will affect “de very relevant way” the costs for animal and human feeding.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food stated this Wednesday in the Congress of Deputies that the Government is responding and acting, within the European Union, to alleviate the effects of the war in Ukraine on the agri-food sector, and in particular to seek alternatives that ensure the supply of items imported from that country, such as corn and sunflower oil. Together with fertilizers, these are the products that constitute the main concerns. The minister assured that 22% of the corn that Spain consumes comes from Ukraine. Once here, it is mainly used in the production of feed for animal feed.

He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.


Planas recalled that Spain is one of the countries that has asked the European Commission to make import criteria more flexible to facilitate the arrival of corn from third countries, and that the extension of cultivation areas be authorized exceptionally within the Union, always with guarantees for food safety. Ukraine recently announced that the country’s railways are ready to organize the export of agricultural products, especially Ukrainian grain, which accounts for 11% of the world market, the country’s state railway transport administration reported. However, the Administration has just prohibited sales of various cereals, including corn, sugar, salt and meat until the end of the year.

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