Asturian exporters face the year with optimism after a record 2022

Asturian exporters face the year with optimism after a record 2022

Asturias enjoys an increasingly resistant export muscle, with a growing number of companies progressively advancing in international markets. Although most foreign sales are concentrated in Europe, it is also there is a progressive penetration in American, African and Asian countries. In 2022, the Asturian export sector reached a record high in monetary terms: 6,177.2 million euros, an increase of 19.1% compared to the previous year, according to data from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism. And companies face 2023 with optimism, despite the uncertainties that threaten the international economy, with inflation still skyrocketing due to the entrenched war in Ukraine and the recent convulsions in the financial markets originating in the United States.

Normagrup workers. | ML / | FR / SA

The record for the year just concluded is consistent with the all-time high for companies in the region that regularly sell abroad (at least four years in a row). There were 647, that is, 18 more than a year ago and 55 more than in 2019, before the covid-19 pandemic. A piece of information that reveals that “Asturian companies have understood that they must internationalize, it is practically an obligation in an increasingly globalized economic environment,” say sources from the Asturian Society for Economic and Industrial Studies (Sadei), which periodically analyzes the behavior of the foreign sector.

Juan Rojo, director of Walk in Pitas.

Almost half of the products exported in 2022 were non-chemical semi-manufactures, a category that includes items such as non-ferrous metals, iron and steel, paper or ceramic products, among others. These are items from Asturian industry, whose weight in Asturian GDP exceeds 17%. All this meant revenue of 2,881.3 million euros, 10.7% more than in 2021. Next, with 15.4% of the total and sales of 953.2 million, capital goods stood out. In this case, sales fell by 5.5%.

Although it is true that the Asturian trade balance -the difference between exports and imports- was negative for the year as a whole -with a deficit of 679 million euros-, in the first month of 2023 the trend of last months and the balance has been positive for a value of 2 million euros: 516.5 million of foreign sales and 514.5 of purchases. In a recent act held in Oviedo and organized by the Principality’s Foreign Promotion Society (Asturex), the president of the FADE employers’ association, María Calvo, highlighted that “with the uncertainties that we are facing day after day in recent years, the circumstances remind us once again that internationalization is one of the key pillars for our economy”.

Daniel Pando, co-founder of Nanovex Biotechnologies

The price factor

However, from Sadei they point out an important nuance that helps explain the unprecedented figures for 2022: “Sales have risen abnormally in part due to the general rise in prices, which has made the products more expensive and, therefore, has increased income”. The agency indicates that this increase compared to 2021 is not “proportional” to that of other factors such as “the physical units sold, the finished products and the hours of work”. It is true that, just as the sales figure grew by 19% from one year to the next, the increase in the quantities exported was not as intense. According to Sadei’s figures, in 2021 a total of 6,175 tons were exported, while last year there were 6,511, a growth of 5.4%.

All in all, the Sadei experts admit that the Asturian economy “has been able to diversify abroad, since until a few years ago, 80% was covered by the current Arcelor, Asturiana de Zinc, Ence and the large industrial and chemical plants”. Even so, they also warn that “Asturias continues to be, compared to other highly internationalized autonomous communities such as Catalonia, excessively dependent on the Spanish market.”

The industry also explains that Italy is the first market for Asturian exports, with 13.4% of the total. A key reason is Arcelor’s shipment of metallurgical products to supply the Italian automotive sector.

From granola to slippers

Despite this traditional predominance of the heavy industrial sector, more and more Asturian businessmen are betting on innovative products and strategies that, although in some cases they translate into still discrete export volumes, reflect a concern to find business niches in all latitudes. This is the case, for example, of La Newyorkina, a company founded in 2016 by Pelayo Pérez and dedicated to the manufacture of granola, a food made from oat flakes and other cereals, mixed with nuts. Located in the Olloniego industrial estate, the company has a staff of ten employees and sells around 30,000 containers per month.

“In 2022 we export 10% of our entire turnover, which reached one million euros,” says Pérez, who assures that his forecast is “to double foreign sales this year.” The main destination countries for their granola are France, Portugal and Denmark, although they also reach more remote points such as the Philippines or the Dominican Republic. Pérez points out that they rely on “marketplaces” and platforms such as Amazon, and highlights as a key lever of their business being suppliers of Oakberry, a Brazilian juice and smoothie company recently bought by an American company.

Also working at Olloniego is Juan Rojo, director of the Walk in Pitas shoe firm, which has the advantage of belonging to the Rojo Cortés textile lineage, founded in 1888. But that does not detract one iota of merit from a business that, seven years after its birth, it is already present in fifteen countries. “Our main market is Italy, but we have specific clients in disparate places like Mexico or the Philippines,” explains Rojo. Last year the company had a turnover of 4 million euros and obtained profits of 200,000 euros. “Our forecast is that in 2023 we will enter around 7 million,” says the manager.

In the more technological field, the company Normagrup, founded in the 70s and focused on the manufacture of emergency lights, has stood out for years. In 2022 it obtained export income of 13 million euros, 20% more than the previous year. They sell to 50 countries, directly from Asturias and through its four international subsidiaries: Mexico, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. “The products we sell the most are emergency lighting, technical and architectural lighting and hospital headboards, and the countries with the highest turnover, France, Germany, Portugal and Morocco”, says Alfredo Fernández, director of the export division. His prospects for this year are optimistic, although with nuances: “The start of the year is being a bit flat due to international uncertainty. We thought the start was going to be a little better because the last quarter of 2022 was tremendously good.”

Another technology firm in vogue is Nanovex Biotechnologies, belonging to the Orejas Group. Its mission is to develop nanosystems for medical applications, aimed at the detection, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Half of its income comes from international markets.


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