Spain

Market overview

The Spanish government has introduced a four-phase plan towards a 'new normal'. The plan progressively allows shops and small businesses to begin re-opening as well as establishments with outdoor areas or those that enact social distancing measures and operate at a lesser capacity.

When reached, Spain's phase four will mark the end of social and economic restrictions. Public transport capacity and mobility across regions will increase to 100 percent.

For more information on doing business in Spain, visit myNZTE - our free online portal for curated, in-depth information and guidance.   


Economy and trade

Until the crisis of COVID-19 hit, Spain's economy – the fourth largest in the Eurozone – was recovering well from years of negative economic growth and boasted the fastest growth rate of the largest European countries, at almost twice the Eurozone average.

However, COVID-19 is predicted to have a strong impact on the Spanish economy. The International Monetary Fund predicts a fall in Spanish GDP of 8% and a sharp rise in the unemployment rate to 20.8%.

The Spanish economy relies heavily on certain services sectors, particularly tourism and air transport (which accounted for 20% of Spanish GDP in 2019), and these sectors have the been the most heavily affected by the lockdown measures.

Government support

The Spanish Government has announced a range of measures to assist businesses that may be affected by COVID-19. You can read more about the economic measures adopted by the Spanish Government here and complementary measures released on 21 April here.

  • Guaranteeing €100 billion (8% of GDP) worth of business loans, covering roughly 80% of each SME loan aimed at ensuring liquidity, especially for SMEs

  • Permitting SMEs to defer tax payments for up to 6 months, with three months' interest free. SME and self-employed taxes have also been adjusted, freeing €1.1 billion of liquidity for companies.

  • Deferring tax payments for all companies for a period of six months upon request, with a discount on interest rates

  • Making €400 million available to the Official Credit Institute for the issuing of loans to SMEs in the tourism, transport and hospitality sectors.

  • Permitting companies with existing loans from the General Secretary of Industry and SMEs to defer repayment

  • Increasing funding to the Department of Social Security to cover fixed, seasonal employment contracts entered into by companies in the tourism sector between the months of February and June

  • Protecting large Spanish corporates to prevent them being purchased by non-EU entities taking advantage of the stock market crash

  • Announcing that force majeure applies for contract suspensions (ERTE) and reduced working hours as a direct result of COVID-19 – meaning that SMEs (with less than 50 employees on 29 February) don't need to pay the affected employees' social security, and all other companies need only to pay 25% of the norm. This has been increased to cover significant drops in activity in those sectors considered essential that have also seen their incomes decrease as a result of the lockdown.

In addition to these federal measures, certain regions and city councils have approved schemes to assist locally. For example, the Madrid City Council approved a 25% reduction in real estate and business activity tax for assets and businesses in commercial, leisure or hospitality if employees are retained.

Advice to exporters

In terms of immediate activity, make the safety and wellbeing of teams your priority, and invest as needed to ensure a safe and healthy working environment. Many businesses are still allowing employees to work from home where this is possible. Check in with your business partners and see how they are doing and how you might be able to support them during this time.

Should you have any team members on the ground in Spain who are unable to work or are working reduced hours, review what benefits you might be entitled to under the ERTE (Regulaciones Temporales de Empleo).

If you have a subsidiary company in Spain and are suffering liquidity issues, we recommend talking with your local advisor to assess which credit line is most appropriate for you.

Consumer sentiment

McKinsey has carried out a survey on Spanish consumers during the COVID-19 crisis. The survey found that Spanish consumers' hopes for the economy have plummeted as COVID-19 takes a heavy toll on the country.

Spanish consumers are the least optimistic about the economy among European countries surveyed, as they feel the effect of the crisis on their incomes and intend to cut their spending in almost all sectors

44% of respondents are reducing their spending across most categories except groceries, household supplies and entertainment at home.

Business operations

Businesses in Spain that are deemed "essential" (such as financial services, home delivery services, food production or distribution and healthcare) are able to operate as usual. Other business activities that cannot be carried out from home, but can utilise social distancing measures, are also able to continue.

Measures have been implemented to make COVID-related regulations more flexible for certain sectors such as commercial ports, agricultural workers and cooperatives.

The Spanish Government is asking companies to do all they can to avoid making team members redundant, and asks that companies wait until they are given the official go-ahead to return to business as usual.

The Government has set out a royal decree approving recoverable paid leave for employees that do not provide essential services.

Travel

Due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in Spain, the UK removed Spain from its quarantine exemption list on 25 July. All travellers arriving in the UK from Spain are now required to self-isolate.

Supply chain, logistics and freight

Regulations and customs processes

In Spain, customs clearance formalities in the industrial sector have been streamlined. The Government is concerned about the virus being spread via merchandise from other countries and about the paralysis of exports due to Spanish Customs officials becoming infected.

The Government has subsequently provided that, in exceptional cases, the Head of the Department of Customs and Special Taxes of the State Tax Administration Agency may decide that customs officials can carry out their assessments via digital means (so as to keep their distance).

Ports

All commercial ports in Spain have guaranteed the continuity of freight operations to ensure the supply chain remains functional. 85% of imports enter Spain via the ports. The Ports of Bilbao and Malaga are continuing to develop their services and logistics operations respectively.

A series of measures have been implemented to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19 at the state port level. These include:

  • Port authorities may now alter the minimum quantities that ships must load or unload.

  • Reductions or exemptions to various port charges may be approved, provided that the cessation or significant reduction of its activity is justified.

The Ports of the State website provides up to date information on how ports within in Spain are operating in response to COVID-19.

Logistics and freight

The European Commission has temporarily permitted the use of passenger planes for the movement of cargo. Restrictions enacted in Spain do not affect cargo ships so the transit of goods by ship will continue in Spain as normal.

Cargo flights and ships remain active between mainland Spain and the Balearic and Canary Islands. On 13 March, Morocco suspended maritime and air connections with Spain, however trucks have been permitted to enter and exit via the Port of Algeciras.

Updates on cargo movements in Spain can be found on Lamaignere Spain.


Sector insights

As is to be expected, numerous sectors have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Below you'll find information on any COVID-19 effects across important sectors and industries in Spain.

Primary industries

Spain's primary sector is continuing to operate as normal. However concerns have been raised regarding lamb, beef and, more recently, poultry.

Those reliant on the restaurant trade have seen a substantial drop in activity and are in the process of reorienting business priorities.

The government is also encouraging Spanish supermarket chains to prioritise Spanish products and ensure greater visibility of local produce, particularly goods affected by the closure of the hospitality sector such as Iberian pork products and certain seafoods.

Fisheries

The ongoing closure of the hospitality industry (both in Spain and abroad) has seen demand for valuable and luxury seafood (e.g. octopus, red mullet, hake) drop significantly, and has caused prices to decrease to unprecedented levels.

According to the Spanish Fishing Confederation and major industry bodies, the overall average losses incurred by fleets, wholesalers, distributors and retailers are estimated at 30% since the declaration of the state of alarm on 14 March. A substantial share of this loss is largely unrecoverable and may result in permanent closures and redundancies once the crisis is over.

A decline in price is expected once restaurants reopen as a result of the increasing backlog of seafood in refrigerated storage, and is likely to create serious cashflow problems for affected companies, threatening their long-term viability.

Online sales of seafood soared during confinement, currently accounting for 75% of total sales, compared to 25% via on-site commerce. Specialist retailers are making an effort to promote online, phone and WhatsApp sales, offering home delivery services to facilitate the consumption of fresh fish products.

Dairy

While domestic demand for fresh and processed cow milk and derivatives remains strong and is absorbing extra output volumes by big Spanish dairy companies, the lockdown is having negative effects on smallholder farmers and small companies specialising high-quality sheep and goat cheese. These boutique producers are highly dependent on restaurants, traditional open-air fresh produce markets and internal tourism purchases. Some cheesemakers in this segment have partially stopped collecting, with a resulting downward impact on prices in the sheep and goat sectors, already hard hit by the crisis.

Meat

With the domestic market essentially off-limits to Spanish sheep and goat farmers due to the ongoing closure of the hospitality industry, producers are currently focussed on promoting exports to third-country markets.

Spanish poultry farmers are concerned about cheaper foreign imports, and are asking the government for funding and stricter import measures to assist them. Spain is the second largest poultry producer in the EU.

Wine and beer

The Spanish wine industry has been more impacted than other EU nations by the lockdown, due to its greater reliance on the hospitality sector for income (6.2% of Spanish GDP).

The state of alarm within Spain has led to a considerable increase in wine (62%) and beer (80%) sales. However, this has proven insufficient to compensate for the loss of revenue resulting from the closure of the hospitality sector, which accounts for 50% of wine revenues and 86% of beer profits.

This is likely to affect New Zealand wine imports into Spain, as the majority of New Zealand wine sold in the market is carried out through the hospitality sector.

Domestically, wine producers are calling on the government to finalise a new marketing standard for the wine sector by the next harvest season to provide stability and contribute to improving wine quality, especially for wines marketed without GI status.

Fruit and vegetables

The situation in the fruit and vegetable sector remains generally stable. Spain is the largest exporter of fruits and vegetables in the EU and exports around 80% of its produce. Production, processing and exports remain broadly unaffected, although agricultural unions report that COVID-related movement restrictions and strict safe distancing measures are occasionally limiting workers´ access to farms and packing areas.

The main challenge is the mobilisation of enough seasonal workers for the fruit and vegetable harvests. To prevent disruption to the supply chain, the government approved measures to enable more people to be eligible for work. However, some farming unions report that they are still having trouble finding workers, as most applicants are immigrants not eligible for employment. They are calling for more flexibility in the existing rules to allow movement of workers between regions (as opposed to short-range displacements between neighbouring towns) throughout the lockdown.

Sales figures and market studies continue to show a clear preference of consumers for agricultural produce with longer shelf lives, including potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes, clementines, bananas, apples, pears and oranges – while commodities such as mango, pineapple or papaya are beginning to see a slowdown in sales.

Additional resources

Below you can find information and contact details for other New Zealand government and international agencies regarding their response to COVID-19.

New Zealand Government agencies

Covid19.govt.nz
COVID-19 helpline for businesses
Business.govt.nz
New Zealand Customs
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
New Zealand Export Credit (NZEC)
MFAT Export Helpline
MFAT Safetravel
Callaghan Innovation
Immigration
Ministry of Health
WorkSafe New Zealand
myNZTE

Global agencies

World Health Organization (WHO)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Contact NZTE

We're available to talk to you about any issues your export business is facing due to COVID-19.

For existing NZTE customers, please contact your New Zealand-based Customer Manager.

If you're unsure who to contact or haven't worked with us before, you can call NZTE on 0800 555 888 or email below and one of our Customer Advisors will help you.