Agriculture and Agri-Food sector
22 million farmers and agricultural workers are at heart of one of the biggest economic sectors in the EU – the agri-food sector. Around 44 million jobs in food processing, food retail and food services depend on agriculture. The EU is also a net exporter of food and drink, exporting goods for more than €130 billion per year. More data on EU agri-food trade.
Helping farmers with income support and market measures, the common agricultural policy (CAP) also ensures sustainable rural development according to the specific needs in each EU country.
The EU wants to ensure that agriculture remains sustainable and competitive. To help achieve this goal, EU money is used for:
- income support to farmers, based on market orientation (i.e. production that meets consumer demands), and linked with environmental sustainability, animal health and welfare, and food safety
- market measures to balance impacts on vulnerable common agricultural markets due to external factors such as weather conditions or a high price volatility
- rural development programs responding to the specific needs for rural development of each of the 28 EU countries
Read more about the Common Agricultural Policy
Agriculture is a part of the Portuguese essence. Most traditions and large parts of the culture are based on agriculture and primary sector processes. Agriculture, and agro-food and beverages are therefore traditionally the backbone of the Portuguese economy. The sector has in recent years reinvented itself and developed new production techniques as well as new products. The sector is today one of the most innovative in the Portuguese economy and has been internationally awarded multiple times for its forward-thinking and modern adaptation to global markets.
The agriculture and agro-food sector includes the production of goods from agricultural crops, cattle raising, fishing and food and beverage industry. It also includes production and industrial processing and manufacturing of vegetables, fruit, meat, oil crops and dairy products, among others, not to forget the flourishing wine and olive oil industries.
Portugal’s key crops are fruit and vegetables, predominantly because of its ideal climate for those crops. The Portuguese production covers the domestic consumption and suffices also for exporting large quantities. The numbers of exports in this sector are consistently growing and reached, in 2016, a volume of 6,3 thousand million euros, representing 11.3 % of the Portuguese economy.
New use of traditional products
Some products that were originally used in agriculture have been diversified, reinvented and made possible to use in a broader scope. One example of this is cork, of which Portugal is the largest global producer. Originally, cork was almost uniquely used to bottle wine, but nowadays this raw material is used in surprisingly many ways, including design, construction, fashion and even in the space industry.
Another example of innovation in this sector is the renewed agro-tourism, where existing agro farms also offer accommodation, experiences, culture and sports.
Portugal’s agro-industrial market is characterized by a large number of small producers. As a result, social initiatives have given room for cooperatives and farmer associations, allowing up-scaling, internationalization and increased power in the market.
As a member of the European Union, the economic strategies obey to the EU:s directives and regulations, including the limits for production in order to keep competitive and fair prices, and also to guarantee land sustainability. Read more about Portugal’s performance in the EU-context here.
The Portuguese government created certified regions for some products; for instance the Port wine region that is well delimited and protects producers in the area.
Public incentives were also taken for key regions and products. One example is the measure for young farmers, designed to support and incentive young and unemployed population in rural areas. This instrument proved to be very important both to bring youngsters to scarcely populated areas and to improve the nativity levels in these regions, by giving young entrepreneurs conditions to be self-employed. These incentives brought innovation, new products and technologies into the sector. Universities in Portugal are well connected with entrepreneurs and companies in order to obtain new techniques and develop ideas and high quality products. In recent years, these partnerships gave way to applications and other technological solutions that made processes more efficient and modern.
A change in consumer behavior in Portugal also significantly boosted the Portuguese agro-food story. “Buy from Portugal” and “Portuguese products are the best” were campaigns launched which had real impact on consumer behavior patterns.
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The Portuguese countryside offers processed and non-processed high quality products. Wine, olive oil and tinned food, awarded internationally, are part of a healthy Mediterranean diet, increasingly valued by modern food and health standards.
Port wine was a pioneer conquering the biggest wine lovers. Today, Portuguese wines have won international awards and gained the respect of demanding critics from all over the world. Also, the Portuguese olive oil is considered to be the best in the world. We have the world’s biggest olive grove and the world’s most awarded olive oil, the receiver of awards such as the Mario Solinas. Also cheese and other dairy products are gaining international reputation.
The Portuguese Rocha Pear is our leading export product, greatly appreciated in demanding markets such as the English and German markets. Our Cherries from Fundão give that extra touch to the worldwide famous Mon Chéri chocolates.
The Portuguese agro-food industry has gone beyond the traditional, combining research and innovation in food, in order to offer products that revolutionize our way of eating. Portugal is a producer of healthy food, appreciated by an increasing number of consumers all over the world.