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Up to 26 million euros (£23 million; $29 million). That's the potential impact on the Catalan agrifood sector of the tariff hikes on EU products that the USA plans to impose, according to the Catalan Agrifood Exports Promotion Agency (Prodeca). Last year, the sector sold 330 million euros worth of goods to the country; the new tariffs on products like olive oil, wine and cheese would have come to 26 million, some 7.8%.

The United States is the eighth-largest market worldwide for Catalan food and drink exports, third-largest outside of the EU after China and Japan. According to the official announcement, the increases will come into effect on 18th October. Prodeca says they will "mean losses of millions of euros for their industries thanks to this extra tariff charge". It remains to be seen whether the burden of covering them will fall on exporters, importers or the end consumers in North America. Catalan agriculture minister Teresa Jordà has called a meeting of the Taula Agrària, a body including industry representatives, next week to study the issue.

The director of Prodeca, Ramon Sentmartí, has told El Nacional that "tariffs are always a trade barrier and in this case will cause serious harm to Catalonia's agrifood exports". He added that there will be a "serious loss of competitivity", given that the Trump administration has targeted only certain European nations, namely those it says gave "illegal subsidies" to Airbus almost two decades ago. That means that some products, like wine, from Catalan exporters will be hit with tariffs that won't affect exporters from countries like Greece, Italy and Portugal. "We're faced by great uncertainty because we still don't know if it's a threat [or not] or what will be done in the end, but the sector is worried," Sentmartí said.

Some of the products to be hit the hardest are: cheeses, olive oil, citrus fruit, frozen meat, olives, marmalades and processed fruit, other fruit, seafood and processed fish, ham and sausages, liqueurs and still wines. They will all see their tariffs increased by 25 percent ad valorem.

Fine Food hardest hit

The Catalan sector which exports the most to the United States is Fine Food, which covers many of the products penalised by the new tariffs: cheese, yoghurt, butter, dried fruit and nuts and fruit juices. This sector will also be the hardest hit by the new rates.

It will be followed by the wine sector; last year, this sector exported the second most to the USA in terms of turnover: 85 million euros' worth. About a third (27 million euros) of this, namely still wines with less than 14% alcohol in containers of less than 2 litres, would be affected by the new measures. Exporters of cava, Catalonia's popular sparkling wine, will avoid the new duties however, as will exporters of any wine from countries that are not France, Germany, Spain or the UK. This means that exporters of products like wine or olive oil from Spain face an extra tariff burden avoided by other producers like Greece and Italy.

After oil, the meat sector exported the most in 2018, products worth a total of 31 millions euros. In the last five years, its exports to the USA have increased 475%. The main categories of goods affected are frozen pork and processed pork products like sausages and ham. The fish and seafood sector, 20 million euros last year, will also be affected. The fruit sector, meanwhile, exports very little to the United States because of a lack of standardisation protocols, so will be the least affected.

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