Iberian Ham: A Jewel In Spain’s Export Crown

Iberian Ham: A Jewel In Spain's Export Crown

Iberian Ham: A Jewel In Spain’s Export Crown

Spain’s food exports are on the rise, and one of the most sought after products is Iberian ham, particularly the bellota variety.

Like Beluga caviar or Kobe beef, Jamon Iberico de Bellota is one of a kind, mainly due to its source – pedigree swine fed on acorns. Iberico pigs are an ancient Spanish breed that enjoy one of two different lifestyles: one lives the life of a normal pig eating grain. The other is free-range and devours acorns, called bellotas in Spanish.

These pigs begin their forage for acorns in late autumn. This event, called montanera in Spanish, marks a critical point in the bellota ham’s production process. The black Iberico pigs and the acorns from the woods located in southwest Spain are essential to the bellota’s unique flavour.

But because the acorn crop varies each year depending on rainfall, the bellota ham is as vintage-dependent as wine.


Spaniards consume most of the bellota ham at home, and some producers have waiting lists for their best products. Due to the large quantity of acorns required to feed the swine, they often cannot produce enough bellota to meet domestic demand as well as that from overseas.

But other Iberian ham, including Serrano ham – which is produced throughout Spain and served in bars and restaurants across the country – is easier and cheaper to supply to foreign markets like China, which signed an agreement with Spain in 2007 opening up that market to cured ham imports like Iberian and Serrano ham.

Spain’s ham industry has also benefited from government-backed initiatives to promote home-grown gastronomy. Spain’s Tourism Plan 2020 includes marketing gastronomic traditions as well as culture and heritage, and the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade already runs a training programme in Spanish cuisine which has attracted participants from across the globe.


Spain’s tourism industry is regaining its reputation as a growth driver and both food tourism and agrotourism have become highly developed sub-sectors. Last month, Juan Roig – the chairman of Spain’s largest supermarket chain Mercadona – said the country’s agriculture and farming industries have the potential to fuel an economic recovery. And many smaller wineries and farms have revamped their installations not only to increase output for export, but also to attract tourists and investors.

One of the most successful gastrotourism projects launched by the Spanish government is the Iberian Ham Routes. These tailor-made tours to a variety of locations offer a complete experience for visitors who are interested in the production process of Iberian pork products.

For information on Spain’s ham industry, contact corporate law firm Argali Abogados.


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