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Spanish meat production in 1986 totalled 2,497,000 tons. The country's farmers produced 137,000 tons of lamb and mutton, 435,000 tons of beef and veal, 765,000 tons of poultry, and 1,160,000 tons of pork. With some fluctuations, these figures were representative of Spain's meat production during the 1980s. Spanish livestock industries had experienced significant growth and modernization since the 1950s, but their output remained well behind the levels of efficiency and productivity of EC countries. The EC states' generous subsidies and their experience in the use of expensive feed grains gave their livestock industries a decided competitive advantage. As the Spanish livestock sector was increasingly concentrated in northern Spain, where minifundio agriculture predominated, many Spanish cattleraising farms were too small fully to exploit the efficiencies of modern technology. Domestic meat production failed to meet demand, making Spain a net importer of farm animals and meat products.
Pork was Spain's most important meat product, and the number of pigs grew from 7.6 million in 1970 to 11.4 million in 1985. Pigs were raised unpenned in the central uplands, but they were generally pen-fed in the northern regions. At times African Swine Fever was a serious impediment to pork exports.
Poultry raising had also expanded rapidly, and the number of chickens had doubled between 1970 and 1985, when it reached 54 million. The emphasis was on poultry production for meat rather than for eggs, because poultry, previously a minor item in the Spanish diet, had become much more popular. The most important areas for poultry raising were in the maize-growing provinces of the north and the northwest, but Catalonia, Valencia, and Andalusia were also important.
The principal cattle areas were in the north, the northwest, and, to a lesser degree, in Extremadura, Andalusia, the Rio Duero Basin, and the Murcia-Valencia lowlands. These regions provided the suitable pastures that were available only in areas with humid climates or with irrigated land. In 1986 Spain had 5 million cattle, including 1.9 million dairy cows. About 25 percent of the cattle were raised as oxen for draft purposes, and about 2 percent were bred for the bullring. The ranches of Extremadura and Andalusia specialized in raising animals of bullring quality.
The dairy industry had grown rapidly. Milk production from cows, sheep, and goats, which had stood at 5.4 million tons in 1974, reached 6.4 million tons in 1986--well over double the production level of the early 1960s. The bulk of milk products came from Galicia, Asturias, and Santander. In 1982 the government launched a program designed to modernize milk production, to improve its quality, and to concentrate it in the northern provinces. The dairy industry was not seriously hurt by Spain's entry into the EC, although the 3 percent quota reduction for each of the years 1987 and 1988 and the 5.5 percent voluntary cutback hampered development.
Spain's sheep population remained almost unchanged at about 17 million between 1970 and 1985. Sheep rearing predominated in central Spain and the Ebro Basin. Goats were kept in much the same area, but they were more prevalent in the higher, less grassy elevations because they can survive on poorer pasture. Merino sheep, the best known breed, were probably imported from North Africa, and they were well adapted to semiarid conditions. Merino sheep, noted for their fine wool, were widely used as stock for new breeds. Other prominent breeds were the churro and the manchegan. Although raised primarily for wool, milk, and cheese, Spanish farm animals, particularly sheep, were increasingly used to satisfy the country's meat consumption needs.
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Source: U.S. Library of Congress