Murcia's canned artichokes exports to the United States registered their worst data in 2020 after falling by 16.5% over 2019, totaling 8,615 tons. Gone are the days at the beginning of the century when Murcia's canning sector sent more than 40,000 tons of artichokes across the Atlantic each year.
The main reason for this decline has been the closing of the Horeca channel in the United States, which in the large cities of the north of the country caused a significant drop in sales and food imports. According to Jose Garcia Gomez, the president of the Food Companies Association of Murcia, Alicante, and Albacete (Agrupal), the main reason for the slow decline in Murcian artichoke exports to the United States is the unequal tariff treatment it receives compared to other exporting countries.
"In 2018 we managed to reduce tariffs to 12.7% for naturally processed artichoke and up to 7.2% for marinated artichoke," Gomez stated. However, he added, this reduction was a small respite for Spanish exporters but it wasn't enough to stop the advance of the Spanish artichoke's main competitor in the US market: Peru.
Spain, the second-biggest supplier
Peru and Spain supply 93% of the processed artichoke that the United States imports. In natural artichokes, Peru accounts for 75% of imports and Spain for 18%. In marinated artichokes, the percentage improves somewhat for the Spanish product, as Peru accounts for 65% of imports and Spain for 25%.
According to Gomez, these percentages show that, despite the tariffs, the Murcian marinated product, which has a greater added value, competes better in the American market. "Canned artichoke exports have resisted for years thanks to our product's quality and the commercial ties we've established over the years with American importers that appreciate our product's quality and guarantees.”
The decrease in artichoke exports in 2020 is in line with the decrease in national exports to the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the compensatory tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. Despite this decrease, the association of regional food companies expects exports in 2021 will rebound to the level they had in 2019, i.e. above 10,000 tons.