Economic Analytical Unit - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Australian Government
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Doing business in Spain
An introductory guide to the market

Section 3 - Sector Analysis and Case Studies

Food and Beverage

The Spanish food and beverage sector presents a challenging market. Diverse climatic and soil conditions in Spain result in variable domestic agricultural production. Competition from Europe and Latin America to meet Spain's needs is strong. In 2000, Spanish exports in this sector were worth 16.5 billion, dominated by wine, olive oil, tomatoes, mandarins and oranges. Food and beverage imports into Spain amounted to 14.3 billion, with seafoods (prawns, crayfish and shrimps) , soybeans, wheat, cigars and cigarettes, and whisky the principle products in demand.

The trend in Spanish consumer habits is towards moderate growth in food consumption, steadily growing in volume by 1.2 per cent in both 1999 and 2000. The value of total food and beverage consumption continues to increase strongly, with an 8.3 per cent increase in 2001 to a total of 61.4 billion.

The distribution of spending in 2001 remained consistent with previous years. Households accounted for 73 per cent of food and beverage spending, hotels and restaurants 25 per cent and institutions 2 per cent. Of total household food purchases, meat (24.1 per cent) , seafood (13.7 per cent) and dairy (12.1 per cent) were the three largest areas of spending. Dried fruit, mineral water, juices and fish products experienced the strongest growth in consumption, whereas table wine, legumes and potatoes declined. The Mediterranean diet ( seafood, salad, fruit and vegetables, olive oil and wine) still plays a significant role in influencing Spanish food and beverage consumption, although there is a shift to consume more pre-prepared, ready-to-eat foods and diet products as Spaniards adopt an increasingly urban lifestyle.

While approximately 50 per cent of fresh food, particularly meat and seafood, is still purchased in traditional shops and markets, supermarkets and hypermarkets are increasing their market share among consumers. In 1995, supermarket and hypermarket purchases accounted for approximately 36 per cent of all food sales. By 2000, this figure had reached 50 per cent. These retail outlets are dominated by eight to ten medium to large companies. This increasing conglomeration levers substantial control over suppliers, making access to the market potentially difficult. Exporters should target specialised importers or distributors, as major importers tend not to import directly. Demonstrated consistency in quality, price, volume and supply is important to establish a long-term relationship with distributors and become part of the supply process.

At the present time, Australia's presence in the Spanish food and beverage market is relatively marginal, with exports in 2002 valued at 10.5 million or A$ 18.3 million. Although there is strong competition in the market from countries such as France, Chile, Peru and Africa, niche market opportunities exist for Australian products in:

As Spanish suppliers seek alternative sources of produce, Australian production of temperate and tropical varieties of fruit and vegetables during Spain's off season is a particular advantage. However, Australian producers need to compete with their Latin American and African competitors.

A common customs tariff is applicable to goods from non-EU countries. Import duties relating to fresh produce are determined by the variety, method of preservation/ packing and the country of origin. Other duties are ad valorem, based on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade ( GATT) Valuation Code ( a percentage on approximate cost, insurance and freight value) . Prior to shipping, all imports of plants or parts of plants, meats or seafoods require certification according to EU sanitary and phytosanitary regulations. This is carried out by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service ( AQIS) . Australian exporters should work closely with Spanish importers to ensure that their products comply with local customs, packaging, labelling and documentary requirements.

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Food and Beverages Industries Federation

Case Study: Tweed Heads Fisheries

The coastal town of Tweed Heads, on the New South Wales Queensland border, has long been known for its excellent fishing, making it the perfect location for Tweed Heads Fisheries, owned and operated for more than twenty years by the husband and wife team, Ms Jacqueline Caste and Mr Theo Glinatsis.

In 1986, the company's directors identified the potential to increase their export earnings dramatically if they could break into one of the world's biggest seafood consuming markets Spain.

As I am originally from France, I already knew about the traditional Mediterranean diet , said director, Jacqueline Caste. It consists mainly of a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, olive oil and seafood. Spain seemed the natural choice to export our processed and packaged prawns.

Early on, we made contact with the major importers in Spain by telex, to let them know about our company. Then we made a number of visits to Spain. While we were there we were able to come to an agreement with several wholesalers to purchase our product. We sent the first shipment of prawns in 1986. In our first year, we sent over 25 container loads.

This initial success gave Tweed Heads Fisheries a foot in the door to the Spanish market, and the company has been successfully exporting predominantly Endeavour prawns, but also Banana and King prawns, to Spain since. In 2002, Tweed Heads Fisheries exported more than A$ 2.4 million worth of prawns to Spain, level the company is keen to increase in the future.

Ms Caste said that overall, the company had experienced no major hurdles exporting to Spain. It has been quite easy. The success of our exports is largely dictated by the market. Some years are better than others it depends on the season. Sometimes Argentina has a big harvest of prawns and it can be difficult to compete with their prices, but then the next year they export very little and the demand for our product increases.

Because of the year-to-year fluctuations in the market, Ms Caste maintains that it is essential to keep in contact with your suppliers. We frequently travel to Spain and visit our customers so they do not forget us! It is also important to be familiar with Spanish customs and beliefs when you are doing business in Spain.

Australian prawns alone earned A$ 230 million internationally in 2002. The Australian fishing and aquaculture sub-sectors are Australia's fifth most valuable rural industry after wool, beef, wheat and dairy.


Spain presents a promising market for Australian education services, particularly for courses in English as a second language and, to a lesser extent, secondary and higher education. Approximately 8.4 million students were enrolled in the Spanish education system in 2000 01.

The growing affluence of Spanish society and increased international exposure through foreign investment, tourism and Spain's accession to the European Union in 1986, has increased the desirability of learning a second language, with approximately 90 per cent of students electing to study English. Despite a relatively low level of English being spoken among Spaniards in comparison to most other European countries, education reforms to the primary and secondary system announced in early 2002 require students between the ages of 6 16 years to study second language.

Although there are no official government statistics, ASEPROCE ( the Spanish Association of Promoters of Overseas Courses) estimates that approximately 190,000 Spaniards travelled abroad to study English in 2001. The strongest competitors in the Spanish market are the United Kingdom and Ireland, which are currently the preferred destination by younger and short-term English language course students due to their geographic proximity. The United States and Canada are preferred among older and second-time students.

As nearly all the specialised language agents offer English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) , it is essential for Australia to offer specialised courses in areas of particular strength in order to attract a Spanish representative agent. Niche market opportunities include:

Though Australia is perceived by Spanish students as an attractive destination, with a good climate and lifestyle, there is still a lack of knowledge and awareness of Australian education services and Australia's competitive academic fees and living costs. Consequently the number of Spanish students currently enrolled in Australian institutions is relatively low (474 in 2001 02, up from 127students in 1996 97) although the trends are promising. Data from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs shows a steady increase in the number of student visas issued in recent years. The number of visas issued in the seven months to January 2003 was close to the total number issued in the previous financial year.

Case Study: University of the Sunshine Coast

Size and age have proved no barrier for Australia's newest and second smallest university, the University of the Sunshine Coast ( USC) in Queensland. Designed and developed as a vibrant modern university, USC has achieved rapid growth and diversification since opening in 1996, and in only a few years has made a successful foray into the Spanish education market. From one Spanish student entering the English Language Centre in 2000 to 21 students in 2002, the University expects an increase in these numbers in 2003, both into the Language Centre and University undergraduate programs.

As part of the University's long-term strategic plan to attract international students, the English Language Centre was established in 1998. Shortly after, Associate Director of International Relations, Del Childs, undertook a marketing trip to Europe that identified Spain as a potential market for the export of Australian education services. The University contacted Austrade in Madrid, which then organised a series of appointments with education and language travel agents around Spain.

From this initial contact the University faced a real challenge in attempting to persuade agents to promote Australia to Spanish students over the traditional destinations. While there is a significant demand for study abroad programs in Spain, the market is very competitive, Ms Childs said. Agents are already familiar with schools in Ireland, the United States and the United Kingdom, and there is general misperception that Australia is more expensive and too far way to be considered. The reality is that tuition and living costs can be as little as half that of competitor markets.

Attempting to counter these perceived barriers, University staff attended various trade fairs and exhibitions, providing agents with a wealth of information about Australia. It is important to portray the real situation. You need to sell the whole package the lifestyle, the accommodation, the cost and the flight, as well as the University, said Ms Childs. This part of Australia is not as well known overseas as say, Sydney, so during my visits to Spain I make sure to take brochures of not only the University, but also of the Sunshine Coast region. Famous for its surfing beaches and rainforest walks, the surrounds of the Sunshine Coast have been a valuable selling point overseas. The University is also one of the few in Australia that has wild kangaroos roaming the campus.

The persistent marketing has paid off and the University now has links to over 20 agencies in Spain, and in particular to an agent in Madrid who specialises in sending students to Australia. It is so important to develop a good relationship with your agent or partner , Ms Childs advised potential exporters. I can t overestimate the importance of that working relationship. To reinforce the University's commitment and build trust with their agents, representative of the University visits Spain at least once a year, regularly distributes brochures and maintains telephone and e-mail contact. Ultimately, Ms Childs believes that being successful in Spain is a question of time, enthusiasm and consistency.


Figure 6: Australian Visas issued to Spanish students

Figure 6: Australian Visas issued to Spanish students

Source: DIMIA

It is estimated that these official figures represent less than half the number of Spaniards who come to Australia for educational purposes. The majority of Spanish students enter Australia on a visitor's visa and average a seven-week stay to undertake English language courses during their July September summer holidays.

Trade Fairs
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Market Overview

The environment sector in Spain is growing at an annual rate of 12 per cent, the most rapidly expanding of all Spanish industry sectors. This is due to a combination of Spain's recent economic industrialisation, low environmental investment base and the national government's commitment to implement EU directives on the environment. While investment in the environment sector in 2000 was approximately US$ 2.2 billion, the OECD estimates that investment must reach US$ 4.8 billion per year in order to achieve present EU environmental protection standards by 2005.

The Spanish environment sector can be divided into three main sub-sectors: waste management, water treatment, and atmospheric emissions. Strong domestic and international competition in the water and air sub-sectors make waste management the most attractive area for Australian business.

Waste Management Market

The Spanish waste market is changing rapidly as it attempts to comply with the 1998 New Wastes Bill which incorporates EU directives on urban and toxic waste. Approximately 90 per cent of Spain's existing landfills do not meet the EU directive on urban waste and more than 25 per cent of Spain's dangerous waste does not meet the necessary controls. Trade Partners UK estimates that Spain may be up to 10 years behind other EU countries in the treatment of dangerous waste. Potential opportunities exist for Australian business in:

Australian firms may wish to consider joint ventures with Spanish firms to gain access to European Commission cohesion funds which have been allocated for environment projects in water quality and supply, sewerage treatment and waste management.

The four major Spanish environment trade fairs SMAGUA ( water control and management) , Proma, Ecofira, and Exporecycling provide good opportunities for Australian firms to raise their profile in the market and to establish and maintain relationships with clients and distributors.

Trade Fairs
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Environment Business Australia

Environment Industry Development Network

Environment Australia

Australia's enviroNET

Spanish Department of the Environment

Case Study: Enviromist

Berri-based company, Enviromist Industries, designs and manufactures covered weed sprayers for use in vineyards and orchards. The company has developed a safer, more reliable, cost-effective and accurate spraying technology using Controlled Droplet Application ( CDA) . For users, the CDA technology means significant savings in chemical, water, fuel, and labour; reduced soil compaction; more timely operations; and the ability to spray even in unfavourable weather conditions.

Enviromist had long recognised Spain, the world's third largest producer of wine, as potentially very important market for its products. Although the company initially concentrated its efforts on developing markets in South Africa and the United States, word soon spread about the quality of Enviromist's products, and in 1997 the company received initial contact from a Spanish vineyard operator interested in purchasing Enviromist equipment.

The company was soon focused on the Spanish market and sought to identify dealers in Spain. In cooperation with Monsanto, major weed killer manufacturer, Enviromist located their first dealer, Cupasa, which has proven to be a small but steady operator, whose volume of purchases has increased every year. Cupasa is now Enviromist's main distributor in Spain, covering mainly the Aragon region.

Mr Chris Vasey, Managing Director of Enviromist, notes that when it came to choosing a dealer, Enviromist recognised that the company would be wholly reliant on that dealer to develop the market in Spain. Cupasa fitted the bill: it was a family operation and the principals were actively involved in the day-to-day running of the business. It was important that Cupasa was willing to commit to the hard work in establishing what was a new technology to the business.

Mr Vasey believes that Spain is poised to take big steps forward in the area of viticulture. Spaniards involved in the wine industry are keen to be as technologically advanced as they can be. This will not only offer opportunities for Enviromist, but also to other Australian companies with quality products and services to sell.

Mr Vasey makes annual visits to Spain. The visits are important in terms of maintaining contacts with dealers, as well as growing the market. Business contacts are very friendly and helpful. He said that he found doing business in Spain to be relatively straight forward, with Australian and Spanish business styles and outlooks being similar.

Although Mr Vasey speaks no Spanish, language has not proved to be the barrier he had initially feared. Many Spanish people we met were already reasonable English speakers and most were undertaking classes to improve.

However he does advise that Australian companies interested in exporting to Spain to be ware of differences in the payment schedule. The terms in Spain tend to be longer than in Australia, with 90 to 120 days being the minimum. However, Enviromist has not had any concerns with its customers.

Since the company began selling to Spain in 1997, sales have increased every year as dealers confidence in the product grows with proven performance of the equipment. Spain is currently around the fourth largest export market for Enviromist and has the potential to be much more.

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Information and Communication Technology (ICT)


Spain is Europe's fastest growing telecommunications market, with a 27 per cent increase in market value in 2000, amounting to US$ 20.6 billion. Major reforms to the sector in 1998 resulted in the dismantling of the former telephone monopoly and privatisation of the state controlled telephone corporation. The Spanish electricity grid and telecommunications network now have levels of sophistication that approximate EU standards.

The main telecommunication corporations now operating in Spain are Telefónica, Retevisión, Lince, Euskatel, Jazz Telecom, RSL Com and American Telecom. The two main Spanish telecommunications authorities are the Telecommunications Market Commission, an independent national regulatory authority set up to ensure competition, and the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Internet and E-commerce

Compared to the rest of Europe, the information society in Spain is still in its early stages of development. While it is estimated that, in 2001, 33 per cent of households owned computer, only 14 per cent had access to the internet. The majority of those internet users were middle-to upper-class males, aged between 15 and 49.

To promote internet usage, the Spanish Government has introduced a series of reforms under the information and technology plan, Info XXI, which includes unbundling the local loop to permit Internet Service Providers ( ISPs) direct contact with users and a flat tariff for internet access. It is anticipated that accessibility to the internet will also improve as the cost of personal computer ownership decreases, and the introduction of the 3G wireless in Europe leads to substantial increases in the number of web access devices.

Recent reforms have also stimulated growth in e-commerce. The EIU has ranked Spain as 22nd out of 60 countries in preparedness for e-commerce. E-commerce revenue is predicted to increase rapidly from US$ 0.6 billion in 2000 to US$ 11.8 billion in 2004. However, this sector is in its infancy, with only 6.4 per cent of Spanish firms selling on-line and one fifth of internet users purchasing on-line products in 2001. Overall, the volume of transactions and level of on-line penetration is low, with merely 0.2 per cent of all sales made on-line. However, Austrade estimates that this will increase four-fold by 2004. Business-to-business e-commerce is also in its infancy, although the largest Spanish firms have begun to take advantage of it. It is expected that approximately 90 per cent of Spain's e-commerce will eventually be conducted in this way.

The rapidly bourgeoning ICT market in Spain provides a number of potential opportunities for Australian businesses in:

While Australia currently has a low ICT profile in Spain, attending trade fairs, such as Portal Point Salón Internacional de Internet in Barcelona, can help to raise market awareness of Australian products and services. Firms entering the e-commerce market should also consider participating in value chain networks that integrate suppliers and distributors, environment support networks, and global e-commerce networks. Some associations that can provide links with the Spanish ICT sector and open potential trade opportunities are Asociación Nacional de Industrias Electrónicas y de Telecommunicaciónes ( National Association of Electronic Industries and Telecommunications) , Asociación Española de Comercio Electrónico (Spanish Association of Electronic Commerce) and Asociación Española de Empresas de Tecnologías de la Información ( Spanish Association of Information Technology Companies) .

A Memorandum of Understanding to encourage greater cooperation between Australia and Spain in ICT is currently being negotiated and its anticipated conclusion in 2003 should benefit Australian ICT exporters. Australia is ranked second in the OECD nations in ICT spending and, according to the EIU, is second only to the United States in e-readiness .

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Case Study: Poltech International Ltd

Already selling its products in the United States, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, China, Hong Kong and Brazil, Poltech entered the Spanish market in late-2001, after winning a 12-month trial contract to supply ten speed camera systems to Spanish police in Madrid.

The product offering for the initial contract is Poltech's digital portable speed camera Lasercam NT, combining the very latest in digital image capture with laser speed detection and the capacity to target vehicles manually or automatically. Initial feedback from the current trials indicate that the Australian product is out-performing its main competitor, the Italian Sodi Scientifica company, with its superior ability to accurately detect vehicle speed in all weather conditions. The potential outcome of the trial is a contract to replace the bulk of the Spanish police speed cameras, deal worth around A$ 3 5 million.

The critical success factor in Poltech landing the contract was the relationship established with local company, ETEL-88, as national distributor for Poltech's products. Market research undertaken by Poltech identified ETEL-88 as the preferred supplier for the defence and civil industry. The Spanish company had a sound customer base, contacts in the areas of government, military, aeronautics and space industry, and strong links in the Latin American market. The company's links proved invaluable in obtaining broad market exposure for Poltech's products and bringing the LaserCam NT to the attention of the Madrid Police.

Austrade's Madrid office facilitated the official linking of Poltech with ETEL-88, organising an official launch which lent considerable credibility and stature to the deal. Poltech's Managing Director, Mr Michael Walsh, said The efforts of Austrade in bringing all the relevant parties together has opened the way for Poltech to participate in some significant business opportunities about to emerge in Spain.

Maintaining a good relationship with the supplier has, at times, been difficult, due to cultural differences such as language, work hours and approaches to time that have on occasions hindered effective communication Mr Walsh commented. However, Poltech believes it is essential to nurture their relationship with ETEL-88, and to this end makes visits to Spain four times a year and maintains fortnightly contact by phone. The company also regards maintaining a high degree of work professionalism as important, because good representation is reliant upon respect, trust and honesty, and in the end you are only as good as your agent on the ground.

Poltech expects their Spanish experience to lead to further contracts in Europe for the manufacture and supply of a range of law enforcement and security products and services, including red light cameras, speed cameras, infringement systems and other digital imaging technology.

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Spain is the world's third largest producer of wine, producing 45,572 hectolitres in 2000. Spanish wines are classified into 6 broad categories depending on the year of harvest and vintage quality: table, new, young, crianza, reserva and gran reserva wines. The best-known and highest quality red wines come from the Rioja region. The most common grape varieties include Tempranillo, Garnacha, Monastrell and Carineña. While Spaniards traditionally prefer red wine, they are also lovers of seafood, and white wines are increasing in popularity. The most popular whites come from the Ribera del Duero and Penedes region and common grape varieties are Airé, Viura, Albariño and Verdelho (spelt Verdejo in Spain) . It is important to note that Spanish consumers recognise wine by the area it is produced in, its Designation of Origin (DO the equivalent of France's appellations contrôlées) , rather than by grape variety.

Total wine sales in Spain were worth 2.5 billion in 2000, representing a 57.6 per cent increase in the value of net sales from 1995. Average per capita consumption is 32.7 litres, compared to an Australian average of 19 litres and 60 litres in France.

Wine is generally popular among Spaniards, although changing incomes, tastes and an increasingly cosmopolitan outlook have altered traditional consumption patterns over recent years. Loyalty to locally produced wines is slowly being diffused, with an increasingly adventurous and experimental attitude. Consumption per capita is generally decreasing. However, the quality of wine being consumed is improving. In place of the traditional table wine, DO wines now represent 35 per cent of total consumption, double the comparative figure ten years ago.

The retail sector moves approximately 50 per cent of market volume, with the remainder sold through the hotel, retail and catering sectors. Approximately 52 per cent of total retail wine sales were made through supermarkets and hypermarkets. Other wine retailers include bodegas ( mainstream wine retailers) , vinotecas ( specialist outlets) , small convenience stores and department stores, eg. El Corte Inglés. Hotels and restaurants obtain 80 per cent of their wine supplies from wholesalers, nine per cent directly from producers and five per cent from supermarkets

Australia in the Spanish market

While there are a number of specialist outlets and wine shops in Madrid and Barcelona that sell a small selection, and some top-level restaurants, hotels and importers are starting to carry them, Australian wines are still virtually unknown in Spain. In 2002 Australia exported just under 60,000 litres of wine directly to Spain, accounting for just 0.01 per cent of Australia's total wine exports.

The main challenge for Australian exporters is to raise the profile of Australian wines and encourage the consumer to try new products. Promotional activities, in-store tasting, limited time price discounts and trade fairs, such as Salon de Gourmets and Alimentaria 2004, are some ways of encouraging Spaniards to experiment with Australian wines. Targeting Spain's enormous tourist market, of over 50 million tourists per year, is another way of increasing market penetration as most tourists come from countries already familiar with Australian wines, such as the United Kingdom and Germany.

Case Study: IMEXA

NSW-based wine exporter, IMEXA, is taking on the world's third largest producer of wine Spain. In their first year of operation IMEXA exported around 690 cases of wine to the region, and just three years later exports have more than tripled, with no signs of slowing down.

In early 1999, IMEXA was contacted by Spanish importer wanting to find out more about Australian wines. IMEXA's Managing Director, Mr Joseph Ferrer, was interested in testing out the Spanish market and organised to send samples and promotional material from 10 Australian wine labels. From this one contact, business has boomed and now exporting is the lifeblood of our organisation, said Mr Ferrer. We carry 14 labels and the number of cases we export is increasing every year.

Principally directing its exports to high-class restaurants and specialty shops, IMEXA exports a variety of Australian labels such as Leeuwin Estate, Cullen, Clarendon Hill, How rd Park, Petaluma, Craiglee and Tower Estate. Mr Ferrer said the company's success came from targeting a niche market and undertaking extensive promotion.

Traditionally consumers of local product, the next generation of Spanish wine drinkers are more willing to sample wines from all over the world, said Mr Ferrer, so it is important to raise the awareness of Australian wines.

IMEXA found that, while Spanish levels of knowledge about the Australian wine industry were not necessarily high, Spaniards were curious to know more. Attending the Alimentaria food and beverages exhibition was an essential part of IMEXA's promotional strategy. The biannual show, the biggest trade fair in Spain, allowed IMEXA to offer tastings to an influential group from the wine industry. IMEXA has also received continued support from Austrade's Madrid office and the Australian Embassy.

Mr Ferrer admits that while trading with Spain can be a challenge initially, it is worthwhile. People need to be ware that in Spain there is no direct route, things take longer you have to be patient, Mr Ferrer said. Australian businesses need to be conscious of cultural differences such as the use of formalities, different work- hours, and the more relaxed attitude to time.

For IMEXA, one-man company with small cash flow, the 90 120 day credit period has been particularly challenging. Mr Ferrer recommends that other Australian companies considering exporting to Spain start off small and minimise their exposure to risks through insurance.

Looking to the future, Mr Ferrer believes that gaining access to the market of the world's third largest producer of wine has opened the gateway to other European markets. There are many export opportunities in the Spanish market for shiraz, semillon and wine such as botrytis and exotic whites, including rieslings. With exports expected to increase ten fold over the next five years, the future looks rosy for IMEXA.

Although the Spanish wine market is very competitive, with locally produced wine accounting for 70 per cent of domestic consumption and imports from Portugal, France and Italy, there are good opportunities for Australian businesses to develop niche markets in premium quality wines to target the high end of the market, particularly the retail, hotel and catering sectors. Other openings may develop around wines previously unknown or not traditionally produced in Spain, such as Shiraz and red varietals and high-quality white wine.

While there are no quotas or excise tax on wine imports, shipments of wine greater than 3,000 litres require a certificate of importation, AGRIM, prior to shipment. The import tariff per 100 litres of wine is currently 13.10 for still bottled wine and 32.0 for sparkling wine. Certain information may also be required for labelling, documentation and wine analysis. It is best to check specific requirements with local importers.

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