Spain left with ham mountain after poor Christmas sales and economic crisis
05 January 2010 @ 09:17
The nation's top hams - the world-renowned jamon Iberico - were traditionally given away in corporate gift hampers to employees and favoured clients but the practice greatly diminished this season as companies struggle to survive the recession.
The industry estimate sales of the traditional cured leg of Iberian pig could be down as much as 20 per cent during the festive season, a period which usually accounts for more than 60 per cent of annual revenue for ham producers.
With an estimated four million hams unsold, the gourmet foodstuff is almost being given away.
Hams have become the most popular promotional gift being offered free to Spaniards who purchase a Caribbean cruise, open a new savings account or even purchase a one-way ticket with a budget airline.
Spain's pig farmers fear the nation's austerity during the economic crisis has coincided with years of excessive production culminating in an unwanted ham mountain.
Julio Revilla, chairman of the meat industry association Iberaice, said the boom years of Spanish ham production had created a bubble much like that in the nation's property sector.
"On the basis of easy credit and thanks to permissive legislation that treats all types of ham equally, many people, including many real estate investors, got into the business, and production increased massively," he told the newspaper El Pais.
The ham market had become saturated by lesser quality products, he said, with about 6.5 million legs of grain-fed Iberian pigs offered on the market in 2009 compared with 1.5 million a decade ago.
Although the top-quality jamon belota from the acorn-fed pure-bred Iberian pigs still commands a high price, the cost of lesser quality hams has halved in the past 12 months.
The glut of jamon follows a similar crisis in the foie gras industry in France. Last month producers gave away 14 tons of the delicacy to charity after hugely overestimating the demand at Christmas.
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