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Spanish fruit and vegetable exports to the Middle East Arab countries, in check due to the veto of the shipping companies to the Suez Canal

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are the main destinations that will see their imports of Spanish fruit and vegetable products disrupted following the attacks by Yemen's Houthis on commercial ships transiting the Suez Canal.


Transport of goods by sea.

As a consequence of the Hamas attack on Israel in October, and the subsequent response of the Jewish country towards the Gaza Strip, the intensification of Houthi attacks from Yemen (a group allied to Hamas that also has the support of Iran) against merchant vessels in the Red Sea, the main shipping companies that regularly transit the area as the main commercial route between Europe, and Asia and Oceania through the Suez Canal, which opens the way to the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, have decided to divert their ships with in order to “guarantee the safety of our crews, vessels and cargo of our customers on board,” as Maersk states in its official statement after several ships suffered attacks while passing through the area. A decision that has led both the Danish shipping company Maersk itself, as well as the Swiss MSC, the French CMA CGM, and the German Hapag-Lloyd to take as an alternative route to reach Asia, go around all of Africa and turn around the Cape of Good Hope, adding between 7,000 and 8,000 more kilometers to the journey of goods to their destinations.

It must be taken into account that 10% of international maritime trade passes through the Suez Canal and 30% of the world's merchandise containers usually circulate through it, which reflects the seriousness of the problem, which, at a minimum, it will make maritime freight more expensive after more than a year of declines, according to a report from the Valencia Chamber of Commerce; and will cause a slowdown in world trade and major markets. A geopolitical situation that, once again, has affected international markets and will affect Spanish exports.

In the specific case of the Spanish fruit and vegetable sector (whose data also includes legumes), whose exports to Asia and Oceania are carried out by sea, the blockade of the Suez Canal would harm the shipments that our country makes mainly to Arab countries, whose access is through the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, as is the case of Saudi Arabia, where, according to data from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, in 2022 45,291.60 tons were sent, for a value of 58.5 million euros; from the United Arab Emirates, where 43,942.53 tons arrived for a value of 43.9 million euros; and from Qatar, which received 10,192.10 tons worth 12.1 million euros; but also to Asian countries such as China, which bought 6,953.16 tons for an amount of 11.8 million euros; and Japan, where 5,556.38 tons worth 16.6 million euros were sent; among which are also, although to a lesser extent, India, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea; to Middle Eastern countries with access through the Red Sea such as Jordan, which in 2022 purchased 2,780.18 tons of Spanish fruits, vegetables and/or legumes worth 4.9 million euros; and to Australia, where 4,961.27 tons arrived, for an amount of 10.11 million euros.

To the increase in the cost of transportation that seems to be obvious due to the overexertion of the shipping companies and the increase in fuel consumption due to the increase in the distance to travel, we should add the fact that the detour of the African coast to Cape Buena Esperanza would add between 7 and 14 more days to the journey, with the damage this entails for perishable products such as fruits and vegetables, as well as the increase in their carbon footprint until reaching their destination. In addition, the expected arrival dates of the goods already chartered when the attacks occurred and the shipping companies cut their service through the Suez Canal have been altered, creating uncertainty among exporters, as can be seen from the published information. by the Hapag-Lloyd shipping company in order to give peace of mind and explain the situation to its customers.

Therefore, and taking into account that depending on the duration of the attacks and the consequent veto of the shipping companies to the Suez Canal, the implications in the sector will be more or less serious, it is clear that the fruit and vegetable sector will have They must rethink their exports and modify their shipping planning, as well as adapt their sales strategies to maintain demand.

Infoagro Editor: Lydia Medero

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