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Spain, technologies for a quality agriculture

Conditioned by complex political events and alternating economic phases, Spain has experienced significant progress in various sectors over the past decades. Agriculture remains a strong point for the country, thanks to quality productions intended largely for export. Agricultural mechanization plays a strategic role as the key tool to improve the quantity and quality of production. The trade relations with Italy in the agricultural mechanics sector is significant

by Giampiero Moncada
January - February 2020 | Back

After being an unprecedented phenomenon of economic awakening in the post-Franco period, since the late 1970s, Spain has had to overcome the crisis that hit the entire western world at the beginning of this millennium. For some years now, it has seen a recovery that seems consolidated by now, despite frequent changes of course in the political sphere. Already in the 2015-2017 three-year period, economic growth stood above 3% and in 2018, with the 2.6% increase in GDP, it exceeded the European average.
In June last year, after 10 years, Spain exited the excessive deficit procedure set by the Stability and Growth Pact, having brought the deficit back to 2.5% of GDP: 10 years earlier, in 2009, it had peaked at 10.9%. Public debt, which had crossed the 100% threshold to 100.4% in 2008, returned to 97.1% in 2018.
Unemployment remains high, despite falling from 25% in 2012 to 14.5% in 2018.
Spain and Italy have always been commercial partners linked by significant cultural affinities, as well as by geographical proximity, and have maintained a high level of exchange even in times of crisis. Spain, however, exported to France and Germany more than to Italy, which in 2018 received 8% of all Spanish exports (22.7 billion euros); meanwhile Italy exported 21.1 billion euros to Spain, 6.6% of total Spanish imports, in fourth place after Germany, France and China.
In 2018, the overall value of trade between the two countries stood at around 43.8 billion euros, i.e. 3.3% more than in 2017.
Entrepreneurial investments also see an intense intersection of interests between Spain and Italy. It appears that in 2018, Italian capital invested in Spain totalled almost 2.5 billion euros; meanwhile the investments that arrived in Italy from Spain in 2018 were 175 million (half of the previous year).
The interest of businesses also takes into account the connection that Spain has historically maintained with the Latin American countries, almost all Spanish-speaking. For their part, Spanish companies have found room for expansion not only in Latin America, but also in China and India.
The tumultuous development of the 1980s led tourism to be the leading item of revenue in the Spanish economy. Meanwhile agriculture, which has always been central to Iberian culture, today contributes just 2.5% of GDP.
In recent years, several areas of innovation have placed the country in a prominent position. There is talk of renewable energies, the pharmaceutical industry, bio-technologies, high technology and so on.


Despite the fact that its weight in the Spanish economy has diminished and has been largely overcome by the service sector, Spanish agriculture still constitutes a formidable competitor especially for Italy. The two countries compete for the world record of olive oil production every year. For wine they are the third largest producer in the world. For citrus fruits, another strong point of Iberian companies, significant investments have been made on selection and innovative technologies. Today, one fifth of the citrus fruits sold worldwide are of Spanish origin. And of the approximately 6 million tonnes produced overall, more than half is intended for export and almost 20% goes to the processing industry.
However, almost half of the land is actually made up of woodland, accounting for 20 million hectares, or 40% of the entire territory, and it continues to increase. The cultivated area corresponds to 33.3%, while pastures occupy 18%.
Two factors influence the development of agriculture: the characteristics of the land, which see Spain divided into arid zone and wetlands, and the fragmentation of land ownership, made up largely of small owners and with a prevalence of large estates, which by their nature give yields lower than the averages of the more developed economies.
In any case, only 10% of Spanish soil is considered rich. 45% moderately fertile, 35% poor and unproductive and 10% is actually bare rock.
Financial support from the European Union has been decreasing over the years for two reasons: higher per capita income, which is one of the main parameters for activating Union support, and the enlargement of the Union to some Eastern countries where the agricultural sector is predominant.
Nonetheless, 17 autonomous regions have received funding from their EAFRD (European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development), which complements national funding.
Technological innovation remains among the priorities of Spanish politics and farms. And the country is a member of the EU project called “Smart villages”, which aims to bring advanced digital services to the countryside to form a European network of “smart campaigns” based on broadband connection coverage even in rural areas.


Agricultural mechanization

The fact that the Spanish tractor fleet needs to be updated is confirmed by the initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture which launched the “Plan renove” project, which makes available to farmers 5 million euros to be used for the purchase of new agricultural equipment ( produccion/maquinaria-agricola/ayudas/ayudas_renovacion_de_maquinaria/). Purchase support already existed, but the new 2019 plan also included tractors, self-propelled machines for harvesting and certain machinery such as plant protection equipment, fertilizer spreaders, direct seeders, sewage tanks with a device for tracking the product on the ground and independent tracking devices for installation in a tank in use. The objective of this plan is to meet the new and different mechanization needs of Spanish agriculture, through the purchase of more energy efficient machinery, with greater working capacity, safer and more respectful towards environment.
The second-hand market, however, remains very substantial. And like in many other countries, this causes a problem for the safety of operators and for the environment.
Given the extreme variety of soils and crops, mechanization requirements span a very wide range.
The import/export of agricultural machinery with Spain sees Italy with a net positive balance. 
In 2018, machines worth almost € 20 million were imported into Italy from Spain, while a total of € 250 million were exported to the Iberian country. Almost half of the value of the Italian machines exported relates to tractors (112 million euros out of 250), while of the 20 million euros of machinery that Italy imported from Spain only 175 thousand related to the tractors.


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