The Biggest Industries In Spain

Capsules in a pharmaceutical lab in Spain.
Capsules in a pharmaceutical lab in Spain.

The economy of Spain is among the largest in the world, with its Gross Domestic Product standing at $1.36 trillion. The country ranks at 14th place in the world’s largest economies. In Europe, Spain’s GDP is only surpassed by that of France, Italy, Germany, and the UK. Despite being hit by the 2007-2008 financial crisis and the property recession of the 2000s, the economy has experienced significant growth in recent years, growing by 3% in 2016. However, the country is heavily indebted, with public debt being equivalent to 99% of Spain’s GDP. In 2013, the country’s gross external debt stood at $1.3 trillion. The euro is the official currency used in the country. The regulation of financial institutions is handled by the Banco de Espana, the nation’s central bank. The country has invested heavily in infrastructure to facilitate the growth of industries in the country. Spain is home to the fifth-busiest port in Europe; Valencia which is also the busiest port in the Mediterranean. The country has Europe’s longest high-speed rail network and is only surpassed globally by China. The major industries that drive the economy of Spain are the tourism, manufacturing, agriculture, and energy industries.


The tourism industry is an important economic driver in the country, accounting for about 11% of the nation’s annual GDP. As the world’s third-most popular tourist destination, Spain receives more than 75 million tourists each year, who come to sample its wide range of attractions. The prominence of Spain in the global tourism industry is manifested with the presence of the headquarters of the World Tourism Organization. Tourists from France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy make up the bulk of Spain’s international tourists. The country has a total of 12 national parks, the majority of which are found in the country’s mainland. Spain is marketed as the ideal summer holiday destination in Europe and has numerous attractions to that effect. The island of Tenerife is Spain’s most visited tourist site, as it is home to the famed Teide National Park, the most famous national park in the country. The Mediterranean coast features fantastic beaches, which attract summer tourists in their millions. On the other end of the spectrum is Sierra Nevada, the country’s number-one winter tourism destination, and home to many ski resorts. Spain is not only known for its natural beauty but also its historical sites. The country is home to the third-most important city in Catholicism; Santiago de Compostela, which draws Catholic pilgrims from around the globe.


Pharmaceuticals and automobiles are the primary export commodities from Spain’s manufacturing industry. The pharmaceutical market in the country is valued at an estimated $25 billion. The automobile sector is among Spain’s primary economic drivers. With an annual vehicle production of more than 2.8 million units, the country is Europe’s second-largest automobile manufacturer, and eight-largest in the world. As much as 80% of the vehicles manufactured in Spain are destined for export. The sector accounts for about 19% of Spain’s annual exports and about 9% of the GDP. Spain is home to 13 automobile manufacturing establishments, with PSA and SEAT being the country’s two largest automobile producers. Many global automobile-manufacturing giants have operations in Spain, and these include Daimler AG, Ford, General Motors, Renault, and Nissan.


Agricultural production in the country is limited by the poor soils, with only 10% of the land area in Spain being considered excellent for cultivation. The country’s terrain also hinders the implementation of new technologies in the industry. Nonetheless, Spain still has Europe’s second-largest land devoted to agricultural purposes, with the country’s agricultural land only exceeded in size by France. The majority of the agricultural land is used as pastureland. Land under irrigation-based agriculture in Spain accounts for only 17% of the country’s cultivated land, but produce as much as 50% of Spain’s agricultural exports. Horticultural products are Spain’s most important agricultural export commodities, and these include vegetables and citrus fruits. The country produces the highest amount of olives in the world and is Western Europe’s top producer of citrus fruits. Despite having the largest area of vineyards in the world, and being the world’s number-one wine exporter, the wine produced in Spain does not stand out and is often bottled in neighboring France and Italy from where it is sold. Essential livestock products in Spain include pork, beef, milk, and poultry.

Energy And Electricity

Another critical industry in Spain is the country’s energy industry. The country is heavily reliant on fossil fuels in its energy consumption. Of the energy consumed in Spain, 42% is sourced from oil, 19.8% from natural gas, and 11% from coal. The country has to source most of the fossil fuels from external markets, as the country has few proven oil reserves while its coal is of poor quality. The major oil field in the country is the Ayoluengo oil field, which has an estimated 104 million barrels of proven oil reserves. The country’s lack of energy resources is often mentioned as the main hindrance to Spain’s economic growth. The total electricity produced annually in Spain is more than 276.8 TWh, the majority of which is consumed locally. Only 3% of the electricity produced is exported. Renewable sources such as nuclear, hydropower, geothermal, wind and solar are important in electricity generation, as a result of Spain’s heavy investment in the sector. The country’s investment in solar power generation is particularly huge, with Spain having the world’s largest solar industry. Spain also made history for being the pioneering country to have wind power as its primary energy source for a whole year in 2013. A Spanish company, Iberdrola, is recognized as the largest renewable energy producing company in the world.

Exports And Imports

France, Germany, and Italy are the top markets for Spain’s exports, accounting for about 16%, 11% and 7% of the country’s total exports respectively. The primary export commodities from Spain are pharmaceuticals, agricultural goods such as wine and citrus fruits, and automobiles. Consumer goods, fossil fuels, machinery, and chemicals are Spain’s main import items, most of which are sourced from Germany, France, and China.


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