The Spanish Chamber of Commerce and the Spanish Embassy went snout to tail last week to promote the country’s pork industry in Mexico with a two-day seminar on ham and other Spanish pork products.
“Spain is the fourth-largest producer of pork worldwide (after China, the United States and Germany) and second-largest producer in Europe,” explained Spanish Ambassador to Mexico Luis Fernandez-Cid de las Alas Pumariño, at the start of a media culinary presentation on how to carve and cook with Serrano ham at the Casa Fran restaurant in Colonia Polanco.
“And Mexico is one of our most important markets outside Europe for the sale of cured pork and sausages.”
But while Mexico imports about 1,500 tons of cured and processed pork from Spain each year, current Mexican regulations prohibit the import of raw pork from Spain, Joana Torrents Carulla, director general of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, told The News.
“The Spanish government has been working to get that restriction lifted for the last 10 years,” added José Ramón Godoy, export manager for Interporc, the Iberian nonprofit private sector organization that promotes international pork sales under the auspices of the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment.
“We are hoping to finalize an agreement to allow the import of raw pork products to Mexico later this year. The details have already been worked out, so it is just a matter of bureaucratic red tape.”
Ramón Godoy went on to note that while Mexico produces a considerable amount of pork each year (about 1.3 million tons) and even exports a small percentage of that output to Asia, Mexicans consume 1.9 million tons of pork annually, making the country a net importer.
Currently, most of the pork that Mexico imports comes from the United States and Canada, but Ramón Godoy said that if the restrictions on importing raw Spanish pork are lifted, Spain could sell at least 100,000 tons of raw pork to Mexico in the first year.
“Obviously, we are not going to be cutting into U.S. and Canadian sales very much because they are already well established in the Mexican market and have the advantage of geographic proximity,” he said.
“But what Spain can offer is high-end, select cuts such as ribs and hammocks, which the United States does not sell here, and the extraordinary quality of our meat.”
Spanish pork is world-renowned for its hardy stocks (including its indigenous Iberian hog, from which pata negra hams are made) and cradle-to-table care in pig ranching, Ambassador Fernandez-Cid de las Alas Pumariño pointed out.
“Our pork industry has burgeoned in the last couple decades,” he said.
“Twenty years ago, we were producing 5 million pigs a year, and today we are producing 26 million pigs a year.”
That translates into 3.5 million tons of pork meat, of which 2.2 million tons are sold as raw meat, according to Interporc sources.
Ramón Godoy said that about 60 percent of the pork produced in Spain is consumed nationally and the rest is exported, mostly to Europe.
Pork sales in 2014 represented about $6.8 billion in revenues for Spain.
Roughly 75 percent of Spanish pork exports go to other European Union countries.
“But now we are looking at new markets, including Mexico,” Fernandez-Cid de las Alas Pumariño said.
And with the proposed opening of the Mexican market for the import of raw Spanish pork, Ramón Godoy said that he expects to see a new surge in sales here.
During the seminar, there were also demonstrations of how to slice Serrano ham and how to incorporate pork into gourmet recipes.
Interporc representatives also spoke about the nutritional value of pork meat, which is rich in proteins, B vitamins, iron and zinc.