Past, Present and Future Report

February 2012

The Government of Canada has prepared this report based on primary and secondary sources of information. Readers should take note that the Government of Canada does not guarantee the accuracy of any of the information contained in this report, nor does it necessarily endorse the organizations listed herein. Readers should independently verify the accuracy and reliability of the information. This report is intended as a concise overview of the market for those interested in its potential and is not intended to provide in-depth analysis which may be required by the individual exporter. Although every effort has been made to ensure that the information is correct, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada assumes no responsibility for its accuracy, reliability, or for any decisions arising from the information contained herein.

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Table of Contents

Executive Summary

  • Canada-Portugal bilateral trade totalled $609.5 million in 2010, nearly a 100% increase from the 2006 total of $150.9 million.
  • Total agricultural trade between Canada and Portugal has generally steadily risen in the past decade, with a dip in 2006 followed by steady growth to 2010.
  • Top Canadian agri-food exports to Portugal in 2010 included canola seeds, soya beans, maize (corn), dried, shelled beans, and durum wheat.
  • Portugal is a significant fish and seafood importer, with imports of $1.8 billion in 2010, and ranking as the 18th largest fish and seafood importer in the world and 10th within the EU.
  • Major Canadian fish and seafood exports to Portugal in 2010 included cod, not dried or smoked, fish fillets and other fish, frozen lobster and shell, frozen cod, and mussels.
  • Portugal's economy has been slow to emerge from economic challenges in recent years, which has impacted consumption, but as the 10th most populous country in the EU, Portugal's market still provides a variety of agri-food opportunities.
  • Portugal's continued economic growth over the past 20 years has increased consumer incomes and in turn, bolstered the country's retail grocery and foodservice sectors.
  • A number of consumer and demographic trends are converging to create growing opportunities for convenience food products and take-away foodservice, as well healthier foods and beverages, while a competitive food processing sector also provides potential for Canadian food ingredient exporters.


Portugal is home to a stable economy, advanced infrastructure and investor-friendly climate that have undergone considerable modernization and growth over the past two decades. These developments have had positive effects on the consumer market and many industries, particularly the retail grocery and foodservice markets. As a member of the European Union (EU), Portugal is also a part of the world's largest single market. While EU partners are the most obvious source for food imports, there are always opportunities for Canadian exporters who offer safe and innovative products to supply to the food processing sector, tourism industry, or consumer market. Portugal can also provide an excellent entry point in the larger EU market, as well as to exterior Portuguese speaking countries where close business ties exist.

Portugal's economy was impacted by the global financial downturn and continues to struggle to recover. However, Portugal is aggressively dealing with the economic debt situation, with strict fiscal consolidation and structural economic reforms due to a joint EU/International Monetary Fund bailout. While Portugal's economy has experienced challenges and volatility in recent years, forecasts suggest a gradual, but ongoing recovery for the consumer market and growth for the future. Similarly to a number of other Western European countries, an evolving consumer population is providing a variety of potential opportunities.

Portugal's 10.6 million consumers have developed a strong penchant for high quality convenience food products in recent years. Rising incomes and busier lifestyles have particularly fuelled demand for healthy, chilled processed food and ready-made meals. Furthermore, as one of the most popular tourism destinations in Europe, Portugal is home to a well-established foodservice industry that is experiencing growing demand for meals. These trends present notable opportunities for Canadian agri-food exporters looking to enter the Portuguese marketplace.

Canada-Portugal Relations

Canada and Portugal maintain excellent bilateral relations and enjoy a strengthening business and trade relationship. The countries share and benefit from trade and investment, development, governance, educational and cultural partnerships. Extensive co-operation between the two countries is also supported through World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations (UN), Organization for Co-operation and Economic Development (OECD), and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership. A long history of economic cooperation exists between Canada and the EU, and a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is currently being negotiated, with the aim of concluding in 2012.

Home to an advanced infrastructure, economic development and strong services and manufacturing sectors, Portugal remains an increasingly important and attractive trade and investment partner for Canada. In 2010, Canada's direct investment abroad in Portugal was $79 million. However, in the past decade direct investment has seen notably higher levels, with as much as $744 million in 2004. Portugal is Canada's 63rd largest destination for direct investment abroad. These business relationships will be important components to further strengthening bilateral trade, particularly when fostering future growth in agriculture and agri-food commerce.

Canada-Portugal Bilateral Trade (2010)
Portugal Total Trade $128.1 billion
Exports $50.2 billion
Imports $77.8 billion
Trade balance ($27.6 billion)
Canada-Portugal Trade $609.5 million
Exports $298.2 million
Imports $311.3 million
Trade balance ($13.1 million)
Canada-Portugal Ag Trade $158.4 million
Exports $96.5 million
Imports $62.0 million
Trade balance $34.5 million
  • Canada-Portugal bilateral trade totalled $609.5 million in 2010, roughly a 20% increase from the 2006 total of $505.3 million.
  • Canada's top exports to Portugal include aircraft and spacecraft (36.5% of exports), miscellaneous grain and seed (31%), machinery, reactors and boilers (5.4%), cereals (5.1%), and vegetables (3.1%).
  • Canada's top imports from Portugal include beverages (17.1% of imports), mineral fuel and oil (9.9%), non-railway vehicles (7.7%), cork (7.0%), and footwear (4.9%).
  • Portugal is Canada's 48th largest export destination in the world, while Portugal is Canada's 62nd largest source of imports.
  • From Portugal's perspective, Canada is Portugal's 32nd largest source of imports and 30th largest export market in the world.

Agricultural Trade

Total agricultural trade between Canada and Portugal has generally risen steadily in the past decade, with a dip in 2006 followed by steady growth to 2010. Total agri-food trade reached $158.4 million in 2010; a 67.9% increase from 2006. Canadian agri-food exports to Portugal have steadily increased over the past decade, with only a slight dip in 2006 followed by steady recovery and growth to reach nearly $96.5 million in 2010. Bulk and intermediate commodities regularly comprise the majority of Canadian agri-food exports to Portugal. Canola seeds, soya beans and maize are Canada's top agri-food exports to Portugal, making up more than 75% of total agri-food exports. As of September 2011, total agri-food trade was already $164.9 million, representing a 4.1% increase over agri-food trade for the full year in 2010, while domestic agri-food exports to Portugal already surpassed 2010 values to reach $121.6 million.

Canada currently accounts for 1% of Portugal's total agri-food imports, and is the country's 14th largest source in the world. Canada also accounts for slightly over 1% of Portugal's agri-food exports, being Portugal's 12th largest export destination.

Canada’s Top 5 Agricultural Exports to Portugal (2010, HS6)
Canola seeds $47.3 million
Soya beans $21.8 million
Maize (corn) nes $7.5 million
Beans, dried, shelled, nes $3.9 million
Durum wheat $3.7 million
  • Total Canada-Portugal agricultural trade represents approximately 26% of all trade between the two countries, up from roughly 19% in 2007.
  • Top Canadian agri-food exports to Portugal in 2010 were: canola seeds totalling $47.3 million or 49% of agri-food exports; soya beans at $21.8 million or 22.6%; maize (corn) with $7.5 million or 7.8%; dried, shelled beans worth $3.9 million or 4.1%; and durum wheat of $3.7 million or 3.8%.
Exporters to Portugal: Description of this image follows.

Canada's Top 5 Agri-Food Exporters to Portugal - Total agricultural trade between Canada and Portugal has generally risen steadily in the past decade, with a dip in 2006 followed by steady growth to 2010. Total agri-food trade reached $158.4 million in 2010; a 67.9% increase from 2006.

Canada’s agri-food imports from Portugal have fluctuated throughout the last decade, with the greatest imports in 2003 of $65.5 million and the lowest in 2002 of $51.3 million. In 2010, agri-food imports were $62 million. Grape wine has remained Canada’s top import commodity from Portugal over the past decade, accounting for over 80% of total agri-food imports in 2010. Due to this large proportion, variations in overall agri-food imports can often be tied to the differing import levels of grape wines.

Canada’s Top 5 Agricultural Imports from Portugal (2010, HS6)
Grape wines nes $50.0 million
Olive oil and its fractions refined $1.7 million
Mineral and aerated waters $1.3 million
Coffee, roasted, not decaffeinated $1.1 million
Cheese nes $1.0 million
  • Top Canadian imports from Portugal in 2010 were: grape wines nes valued at $50 million and making up 81% of all agri-food imports; olive oil valued at $1.7 million or nearly 3% of imports; and mineral and aerated waters worth $1.3 million or roughly 2%.
  • Other major Canadian agri-food imports included roasted non-decaffeinated coffee, and cheese, worth nearly $1.1 million and $1 million or 1.7% and 1.6% of total agri-food imports respectively.
Trade: Description of this image follows.

anada's Agri-Food Trade with Portugal - Canada's agri-food imports from Portugal have fluctuated throughout the last decade, with the greatest imports in 2003 of $65.5 million and the lowest in 2002 of $51.3 million. In 2010, agri-food imports were $62 million.

Fish and Seafood Trade

While Canada's fish and seafood exports to Portugal remain modest in comparison to other export markets ($3.5 million in exports out of $3.9 billion in exports to the world in 2010), Portuguese consumers are Europe's largest per capita fish consumers, and third in the world. Fish is a long-time staple of the Portuguese diet and due to depleting fish stocks and access to fishing waters Portugal is relying increasingly on imports to meet domestic demand.

Portugal’s Top 5 Fish and Seafood Imports from the World (2010, HS4)
Frozen fish (no fillets or other fish meat) $426.4 million
Fish, dried, salted, smoked, etc., fish meal $380.9 million
Fish, fresh or chilled (no fillets or other meat) $287.6 million
Molluscs and aquatic invertebrates nesoi, live, etc. $246.1 million
Crustaceans live, fresh, cooked, etc. $230.4 million

Portugal is a significant fish and seafood importer, with imports of $1.8 billion in 2010, and ranking as the 18th largest fish and seafood importer in the world and 10th within the EU. Fish and crustaceans, molluscs and other aquatic invertebrates accounted for $1.7 million of Portugal's fish and seafood imports in 2010. However, in the past five years, Portugal's imports of fish and seafood have seen notably higher levels, which may have been impacted by the global economic slowdown from 2008-2009. In 2007, Portugal ranked as the 15th largest fish and seafood importer in the world, with nearly $2.1 billion in imports.

Portugal currently imports 0.3% of its fish and seafood products from Canada which ranks 30th among all of Portugal's import sources. However, Canada's exports of fish and seafood to Portugal have decreased in the past several years and used to comprise a larger share of Portugal's import market. In 2008, Portugal imported $23.8 billion worth of fish and seafood from Canada which represented a 1.1% share of the import market and ranked Canada 16th as an import source.

Canada’s Top 5 Fish and Seafood Exports to Portugal (2010, HS6)
Cod, not dried or smoked $1.4 million
Fish fillets and other fish meal $984,500
Frozen lobster and shell $296,500
Frozen cod $196,692
Mussels, not live or fresh $188,633
  • Canada's major fish and seafood exports to Portugal in 2010 included: cod, not dried or smoked, worth $1.4 million or 38.9% of fish and seafood exports; fish fillets and other fish meal valued at 984,500 or 27.8%; frozen lobster and shell at $296,500 or 8.4%; frozen cod at $196,692 or 5.5%; and mussels worth $188,633 or 5.3%.

While cod exports to Portugal were only slightly over $1 million in 2010, they have seen significantly larger values in the past. Their highest value in the last decade was $16.8 million in 2008, while the lowest was in 2004 with $1.2 million. Several of Canada's top five fish and seafood exports in 2010 have seen recent notable growth in the past decade. Previous to 2007, fish fillets and other fish did not have any exports, while frozen lobster was only exported in 2009 and 2010, and frozen cod was only exported in 2007 and 2010. However, some products that have previously had notable exports in the past decade had lower numbers in 2010. Mackerel exports were $21,178 in 2010, but were valued at $3 million and $4.1 million respectively in 2006 and 2007, while frozen fillets had exports of $1.5 million in 2005. Dried cod, not smoked, also saw notable exports earlier in the decade of $2 million and $3.9 million in 2004 and 2005, and over one million in 2006.

Canada's imports of fish and seafood from Portugal have fluctuated slightly in the past decade, but remained fairly steady. In 2010, imports were valued at $6.5 million; up from $5.9 million in 2009. Canada's top fish and seafood import in 2010 was sardines, worth nearly $1.6 million or 25% of fish and seafood imports.

Trade: Description of this image follows.

Canada's Fish and Seafood Trade with Portugal - Canada;s imports of fish and seafood from Portugal have fluctuated slightly in the past decade, but remained fairly steady. In 2010, imports were valued at $6.5 million; up from $5.9 million in 2009.

Complete statistical summary available at Canadian Trade Data by Country on the Agri-Food Trade Service website.


As a member of the EU, Portugal is part of the world's largest single market. Since Portugal's accession into the EU in 1986, the country has seen its economy and industries greatly expand and modernize. Between 1986 and 2000, Portugal experienced average annual real GDP growth of 3.7%, due to increased EU trade and fund receipts for infrastructure improvements. However, excessive public and private sector spending and investment in the 1990's led to large trade and budget deficits in 2001, which resulted in the implementation of major economic controls. Measures were introduced to improve educational and professional development, boost productivity and enhance Portugal's competitiveness. Shifting the country's economic focus to increasing private investment, exports and high-tech sector development remains a key priority for achieving future growth.

Similarly to other modern economies, trade is an important element to Portugal's market, accounting for 69% of the country's GDP. Portugal's services sector (which includes the public service, retail, tourism and recreation sub-sectors) remains the main economic driver in the country, and accounted for an estimated 74.7% of GDP in 2010. The industry and agricultural sectors, traditionally the country's leading engines of growth, follow at roughly 22.9% and 2.5% of GDP. According to Export Development Canada (EDC), key industries include machinery, transportation services, plastics and chemicals, oil and gas, and agriculture.

According to EDC, Portugal's economy has been slow to emerge from the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, but in the past has seen positive progression from a traditional economy that is resource-based, to industries that are knowledge-intensive and are value-added. However, while the economy continues to struggle and recover, economic uncertainty has impacted consumption in the market. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicates that GDP continued to contract in 2009 by 2.6%, but was predicted to recover in 2010 and grow by just over 1%. However, the economy was expected to slip back to negative growth in 2011.

Gross Domestic Product (2011 est.)
GDP (current prices) US$222.03 billion
GDP growth (constant prices) -2.6% (2009)
1.1% (2010e)
-1.4% (2011e)
GDP/capita (current prices) US$20,834
GDP/capita (PPP) US$23,000 (2010e)

Sources: IMF, EIU


  • According to the IMF, GDP reached an estimated value of US$220.03 billion in 2011.
  • Portugal has privatized many of its industries, particularly the financial and telecommunications sectors, over the past two decades, which has greatly liberalized parts of the economy.
  • According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Portugal's unemployment rate was estimated to be 10.8% in 2010; up slightly from 9.5% in 2009.
  • With a labour force consisting of an estimated 5.6 million people, 11.7% are employed in agriculture, 28.5% in industry, and 59.8% in services.
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) believes there will be a contraction of 1.4% in 2011 for the economy, while the IMF estimates a contraction of 0.05%.
  • Consumer price inflation of 3.7% is expected for 2011.
  • Portugal's current-account deficit as a percent of GDP is one of the largest in the euro area (an estimated 7.8% in 2011), however, has been decreasing at a healthy rate.


  • The EIU forecasts real GDP growth contraction of 4.1% in 2012, with a slightly slower contraction of 2.1% in 2013. The economy is then expected to gradually recover with real GDP growth of 0.1% in 2014, followed by 0.7% in 2015 and 0.8% in 2016.
  • Inflation is expected to slow in 2012 to 2.1%, and continue to slow in the future with an average of 1.6% from 2013-2016.
  • Value-added-tax (VAT) is expected to increase, from the current low and intermediate rates of 6% and 13%, to the standard tariff level of 23%.
  • Portugal's current account deficit is expected to decline notably in coming years, to reach 1-2% of GDP in 2015-2016.
  • As a member of the EU, another challenge is the current debt crisis in the euro area which is expected to eclipse business in the EU in the near future. As a result, the euro is expected to depreciate to US$1.28:€1 in 2012, followed by US$1.25:€1 from 2013-2016.
  • The Euro area and EU, the destination of roughly 80% of Portugal's exports, are predicted to enter into a recession in 2012, leading to an expected decline in Portugal's exports which are a key driver of GDP.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) forecasts significant economic challenges for Portugal from 2012-2016, with strict fiscal consolidation and structural economic reforms due to a joint EU/IMF bailout. As a member of the EU, Portugal's economy is expected to remain restrained and be impacted by future developments in the debt crisis of the Euro area. The government budget focuses on reducing the deficit and share of government expenditure, as well as public wages and pensions; with the goal of internally devaluing the economy and increasing it's competitiveness.

Consumer Market

As the 10th most populous country in the EU, and ranking 77th overall in the world, Portugal's market provides a variety of opportunities for agri-food products. Portugal's continued economic growth over the past 20 years has increased consumer incomes and in turn, bolstered the country's retail grocery and foodservice sectors. However, strict economic controls since 2001 have dampened disposable incomes, and with continued austerity measures and market uncertainty, consumer demand will likely to remain constrained in the near future. However, an evolving consumer base is nonetheless providing opportunities for Canadian exporters.

Population Demographics 2011 est.
Population 10.6 million
Age (% of population) 0-14 years
Age (% of population) 15-64 years
Age (% of population) 65 years and over
Median Age 40 years
Population Growth 0.2

Sources: CIA World Factbook, IMF

Portuguese consumers are increasingly leading busier lifestyles and demanding more fast food, convenience products and ready-made meals to meet their needs. One trend supporting this demand is the rising number of women in the workforce, which is increasing household incomes, and in turn, purchases of prepared or quick meal solutions.

With this shift in demand, the traditional Mediterranean diet, considered one of the healthiest worldwide, is being challenged. However, Portuguese consumption patterns are deeply rooted in tradition and packaged and processed food similar to homemade Portuguese meals are preferred. Since fresh, quality food is favoured, chilled processed food (particularly pasta and pizza) has naturally become the fastest growing sub-segment of the category although consumption levels remain low in comparison to other product segments. Successful food companies have had to work hard in the past to convince consumers that packaged food can be healthy; many consumers still prefer to purchase freshly-made snacks and meals from foodservice outlets.

While disposable incomes are still relatively low when compared to other Western European countries, average disposable incomes have steadily risen in the past to further support the consumer trend for convenience food products. However, disposable incomes dropped in 2009, being impacted by the global financial downturn in 2008-2009, which is expected to result in increased cooking at home as customers continue to cut costs. For the future, Euromonitor International predicts that disposable incomes are expected to rise again as the country works to recover from the downturn. Household annual disposable income is expected to increase from 2010-2020, with the most growth occurring in higher income households. Households with an annual disposable income above US$75,000 up to US$150,000 are expected to grow the most, increasing 114% from 2010-2020, with those above US$45,000 up to US$75,000 increasing 93%, and households over US$150,000 growing 70.8%. On the other hand, households with annual disposable incomes of US$25,000 or less are only expected to increase between 5-9%.

Increasing urbanization should also help to drive demand for processed and easy-to-prepare convenience foods. Portugal's urban population increased by 5% from 2005 to 2009 to reach 6.2 million, fuelled by the younger generation in search of a higher standard of living, while the rural population has been declining. By 2020, Portugal's urban population is expected to have increased 10% from 2010 to reach 6.9 million. Consumers in Portugal's cities and coastal regions also have the highest disposable incomes. Growing suburbs around Portugal's major cities are also providing opportunities for expansion in both Portugal's retail grocery and foodservice markets, with some even experiencing greater population growth than the cities. Lisbon and Oporto are major cities in Portugal that are still growing, along with their respective satellite towns, Amadora and Vila Nova de Gaia. Other major cities include Faro, Setubal and Aveiro.

Major Cities and Satellite Towns Population Growth 2005-2009 Population 2009 Population Growth
2010-2020 est.
Population 2020 est.
Lisbon (city) 1.9% 585,000 6.0% 623,000
Amadora 2.5% 185,000 6.8% 199,000
Oporto (city) 1.8% 268,000 5.1% 282,000
Vila Nova de Gaia 5.3% 324,000 10.0% 361,000
Urban Population 5.3% 6.2 million 10.0% 6.9 million

Source: Euromonitor International

Similarly to other Western countries, Portugal's population is also rapidly ageing; increasing from 39.2 years in 2005 to 40.4 years in 2009. By 2020, the median age is expected to further rise to 44.4 years, and those 65 years of age and older will account for 16.8% of the population. This generation is much fitter and active than previous generations, and less vulnerable to recessionary impacts, providing possible opportunities for products that cater to their healthy and active lifestyles.

Although consumers are seeking healthier food choices, organic food has made few inroads into the Portuguese market. Many Portuguese still maintain small plots of land where they grow their own produce and/or purchase locally-produced fruit and vegetables from neighbourhood markets. However, demand for healthier and more natural products, as well as high quality and specialty food at affordable prices is growing. Increased international travel and inbound tourism have also generated a small market for ethnic food, but traditional Portuguese cuisine remains predominant.

Portugal also has the 44th largest immigrant population in the world, mostly originating from Brazil, Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde (former Portuguese colonies). However, Portugal also has notable immigrant populations from Northern, Western and Eastern Europe, as well as China, India and Pakistan, which are all influencing the diverse make-up of the country's population and brining new cultures, cuisines, and products to the Portuguese market (Euromonitor International).

Specific products that have strong potential in the Portuguese marketplace for Canadian exporters include ready-meals, chilled processed food, snack food, specialty products, pulses, fresh and frozen fish and seafood, tree nuts and sunflower seeds. Pet ownership has also seen substantial growth, increasing nearly 12% from 2005-2009, resulting in increased demand for pet food and a pet population of 5.7 million, which may provide opportunities.

The following section summarizes Euromonitor International's assessment of Portuguese eating habits, as well as the country's retail food and foodservice sectors' size, growth and projected performance, from Consumer Lifestyle, Grocery Retail and Foodservice reports on Portugal.


  • Food and non-alcoholic beverages account for the largest portion of consumer expenditure: 15.6% in 2009. However, as disposable incomes rise and consumers begin to spend more money on other items, food and non-alcoholic beverages are expected to account for a smaller portion of expenditures: 13.7% in 2020.
  • Expenditures on food and non-alcoholic beverages increased 0.2% from 2005 to 2009, and are predicted to grow another 2.1% to 2020.
  • Price and value are key considerations for Portuguese consumers when making food purchases due to relatively low disposable incomes. As a result, genetically modified (GM) foods are often not a concern for the vast majority of consumers. However, as urban consumers experience increasing disposable incomes, more opportunities may arise for organic and GM-free foods in the future.


  • Despite current trends toward consumption of packaged and processed food, Portuguese continue to consume large quantities of fresh food, largely due to fresh food being a staple of Portugal's traditional Mediterranean diet. Expenditures on fruit are expected to decline by 11.2% from 2010-2020, while expenditures on vegetables are predicted to increase 4.3%.
  • Greater consumer awareness of the health benefits associated with fresh fruit and vegetable consumption, and better quality products available in the retail grocery market are also driving growth. Fresh fish, meat, fruit and vegetables remain popular products with consumers.
  • Pork is the most popular meat in Portugal; however, poultry is becoming increasingly popular. In 2009, meat accounted for nearly 25% of food expenditures. Meat expenditures are expected to grow 8.5% from 2010-2020.
  • The sea and Portugal's coastal location also has a significant presence in Portuguese cuisine, with fish and seafood important diet staples. In fact, Portugal has the highest per capita fresh fish consumption in Europe and Cod is the country's national dish. Sardines and shellfish are also particularly popular. Fish and seafood expenditures accounted for 17% of food expenditures in 2009 and are expected to grow 10.6% from 2010-2020.
  • Cheese is also particularly popular among Portuguese consumers with expenditures on milk, cheese and eggs predicted to grow 8.9% from 2010-2020.
  • Despite being the 8th largest consumers of alcohol, per head, in the world, Portuguese consumers are expected to decrease their spending on alcohol in the future, due to decreased spending and increased health awareness. Portugal is a significant wine producer, with wine accounting for the majority of alcoholic expenditures.
  • Frozen food purchases have increased, particularly as consumers can purchase these in bulk format from hypermarkets, and prepared foods are also growing in popularity due to busier lifestyles.

Retail Grocery

  • The Portuguese retail grocery market has changed rapidly over the past two decades and remains diversified. Supermarkets, hypermarkets, convenience stores, discounters and specialty shops still compete with traditional independent grocers and open air markets, although the latter formats are struggling to stay competitive with large retail chains.
  • The emergence of many supermarkets and hypermarkets, which dominate food distribution, has particularly changed the retail landscape; major retailers include Continente (hypermarket leader), Pingo Doce (supermarket leader), Minipreço (Carrefour, discounter leader), Auchan, and Intermarché. Supermarkets and hypermarkets currently make up about 67% of total retail grocery sales, and will likely see continued growth as they offer more ready-made and take-away meals, competitive prices and services.
  • Discounters have become an attractive shopping format for consumers in recent years, as Portugal's economic challenges since 2001 have left shoppers with less disposable income. This preference for discounters has also helped private labels enter the Portuguese retail grocery market.
  • Consumers tend to purchase large quantities from large supermarkets once every two weeks, or once a month, and then supplement their grocery needs with frequent visits to small local stores for fresh foods.
  • Smaller household sizes are expected to result in less bulk buying from hypermarkets and more local buying of perishable products, along with increased expenditure on dining out and convenience products, such as pre-packaged and take-away food.
  • Rural consumers tend to shop in small, traditional stores, farmer's markets and small supermarkets, while urban consumers are accustomed to shopping in large malls.


  • There is a longstanding Portuguese tradition of dining out frequently, and it is common for Portuguese to have coffee out at least twice a day and eat lunch out five times a week.
  • However, expenditure on dining out has been on the decline due to a consumer focus on value, and the traditional cooking and eating at home still being popular with consumers as they try to keep costs low.
  • Despite having a strong café culture and coffee consumption, these types of foodservice establishments appear to be decreasing in popularity. However, opportunities in other types of foodservice are presenting themselves.
  • Increasingly busy lifestyles and smaller households are expected to drive demand for fast food and take-away products. In fact, fast food and pizzas were the one dining out segment that saw growth from 2005 to 2009.


According to EDC opportunities for Canadian companies in Portugal are strong, as trade is an important element to the economy. Canada has focused in the past on the trade of agri-food and fish and seafood to Portugal, however, EDC also sees potential in a range of different sectors.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) also lists the following as some of the best consumer oriented prospects for the Portuguese market: wheat, corn, soybeans, soybean meal, soybean oil, sunflower seeds, sunflower oil and others, pulses, nuts, and frozen fish.

Other Potential Opportunities in the Portuguese Market:

  • With fish and seafood being a staple of Portuguese diets and the highest fish consumption in Europe, Portugal is a particularly opportunistic market for these types of exports.
  • Increasing disposable incomes coupled with increasing urbanization, busier lifestyles and smaller households is expected to provide growing opportunities for convenience, packaged and prepared foods in the retail grocery market and with take-away and good-value food products in foodservice. The younger generation is expected to largely fuel opportunities and growth in these products.
  • An ageing population, coupled with increasing health awareness among consumers of all ages, may provide opportunities for healthy food and beverages in the Portuguese market, as well as products that are perceived as having health benefits or being "healthier" in nature.
  • While still a niche segment, the Portuguese market may experience growing demand for organics and GM-free products in the future as the current consumer base, while small, is comprised of opinion leaders.


As an EU member, Portugal relies heavily on its many EU neighbours as import sources, where trade barriers do not exist and proximity is at a premium, making the country a more challenging market for Canadian products and companies to penetrate.

Portugal's key import sources include Spain (31.2% of total imports), Germany (13.7%), France (7.2%), Italy (5.7%), and the Netherlands (5.1%). Outside of the EU, Portugal's closest import sources are China (2.7% of total imports), Nigeria (2.4%), and Brazil (1.8%). The United States (U.S.) ranks as Portugal's 11th largest import source, while Canada ranks as 32nd.

Portugal's principal agri-food import sources include Spain (43.7%), France (11.5%), Germany (6.4%), Brazil (5.5%), and Netherlands (5.4%), and represent Canada's top competition in the Portuguese export market. Other key competitors include other EU members and the U.S., which ranks as Portugal's 9th largest agri-food import source, while Canada ranks 14th.

Major fish and seafood competition in Portugal comes from European markets, the China and the U.S. In 2010, Portugal's top fish and seafood import sources were Spain (44.3% of total fish and seafood imports), Sweden (12.2%), Netherlands (5.8%), China (4.5%), and the U.S. (2.9%). Canada ranks as Portugal's 30th largest source of fish and seafood.

Access Issues

Portugal remains a destination of constant trade and investment interest for foreign investors, and holds strong potential for Canadian companies wanting to penetrate the EU region. To facilitate successful market entry, Canadian exporters are encouraged to develop market entry strategies that include working with local importers and distributors to develop a presence, gain valuable market advice, and best position products to meet local tastes, laws and pricing.

Trade events can also provide valuable marketing opportunities for entering the EU market and generating qualified trade leads. For a list of shows occurring in Europe, please visit the Agri-Food Trade Service (ATS) trade events page.

Since its accession to the EU, Portugal has transformed its infrastructure into a modern and well-developed network. The country is home to one of the most advanced highway networks in Europe, and has strengthened transportation infrastructures to rural and less-developed regions. Portugal's logistics infrastructure is efficient and well-positioned throughout the country, with major importers and distributors operating in large cities from the north (in Porto) to the south (Lisbon), in large centres in-between, and on the islands of Madeira and Azores.

As a member of the EU, WTO, OECD and NATO, Portugal implements international accords and policies from these bodies. The majority of Portugal's requirements governing imports are co-ordinated with EU regulations and legislation for food, feed, ingredients and beverages, while others are specific to the country which Canadian exporters should be aware of before entering the market.

When EU legislation is lacking, Portuguese laws will apply to imported products which must adhere to Portugal's requirements.

Customs Procedures

  • The Portuguese Ministry for Agriculture, Sea, Environment and Spatial Planning (MAMAOT), controls imports of live animals and animal products, done through the Directorate General of Veterinary (DGV), as well as imports of feed and plant products via the Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DGADR).
  • In November of 2011, through new law the DGV became the Directorate General for Food and Veterinary (DGAV), with a new mandate that encompasses for food safety for animal and plant health.
  • Agri-food and fish and seafood exports to Portugal must come from EU-approved production facilities. A phytosanitary certificate is also required for certain agri-food products and can be found through the MAMAOT.
  • Import certificates or licenses (i.e. for products protected by quotas) are also required for most food products entering the country and can be obtained from the Portuguese Directorate General for Customs and Special Taxation on Consumption (DGAIEC). Live animal imports must also follow import requirements of DGAIEC (USDA, 2011).
  • Agri-food products requiring a quota license include cereals; rice; beef and veal; goat, sheep and buffalo meat; sugar and isoglucose; oils and fats; seeds; wine; processed fruit and vegetables; and milk and milk products.
  • Most food exports are subject to a reduced Value Added Tax (VAT), while alcoholic beverage and tobacco exports are subject to special tariffs.

Canadian exporters are encouraged to register with the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service to gain easy access to Canada's embassies and posts abroad. Canadian exporters are also encouraged to use the services of EDC and DFAIT: both of which offer trade information, and financial and risk management services to Canadian exporters.

The Embassy of Canada to Portugal can assist Canadian exporters who are interested in the German market, as agriculture, food, and beverages, is a priority sector. The team can provide Canadian companies with a variety of core services including: assessing your market potential, finding qualified contacts, resolving business problems and arranging meetings: contact our team.

Business Travel Tips

Portuguese business customs are similar to those in North America and Western Europe; however, a good understanding of the differences is important for successful market entry.

  • Portuguese place a lot of importance on establishing strong business relationships. Face-to-face meetings are preferred over other forms of communication which are seen as impersonal. Aggressive business or marketing tactics are often considered offensive.
  • Portuguese business contacts generally address each other by their family name. Titles (e.g., Doctor, Engineer, Architect, etc.) are also commonly used and precede family names. This practice should be followed in meetings and all correspondence.
  • Formal business dress is very important in Portugal. The Portuguese are often considered to be more formal in business conduct than Spanish. Punctuality and professional courtesy are also highly regarded and expected.
  • While English is widely spoken in Portugal, bilingual printed materials should be made available during business meetings.
  • Business arrangements are examined very closely and attention to detail should be made to not only to price terms, but other items such as delivery times, payment terms, currency, etc.
  • Normal business hours run from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Business trips should fall either before mid-July or after mid-September, as August is the traditional month for vacations. Meetings should be scheduled one to two weeks in advance.

For further information on travelling to Portugal consult DFAIT's:

Travel Report

Centre for Intercultural Learning

Agricultural Sector and Policies

Portugal, like many other EU countries, has seen its growing services sector replace much of the country's traditional reliance on agriculture. The country's agricultural sector accounts for 2.5% of GDP and employs 11.7% of the workforce. Despite its overall importance to the economy, Portugal's agricultural productivity remains lower than the EU average due to low sector investment, adoption of new farming technologies and fertilizer usage, as well as its inefficient land tenure methods. Domestic dry-land crop production (e.g. cereals, potatoes, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, almonds, olives, and fresh fruit) has also been impacted by severe drought in past years.

Portugal's main agricultural commodities include grains, potatoes, tomatoes, olives, grapes (i.e. for wine production), sheep, cattle, goats, swine, poultry, dairy products and fish. Portuguese wine and olive oil are revered by domestic consumers for their high quality; therefore, price competitive international products have had little effect on Portuguese demand in the past. Arable land accounts for approximately 17% of land use, while permanent crops make up almost 8%. There are 5,840 sq. km of irrigated land in Portugal (CIA).

Portugal's food processing sector has seen considerable advancements: modernizing and expanding over the past several decades. The country now has one of the most competitive food processing industries within Europe which presents opportunities for Canadian exporters to supply food ingredients to a growing industry that is looking for quality inputs that are safe. The food processing industry accounts for roughly 16% of Portugal's total industrial production and is dominated by small and medium sized companies which make up more than 70% of the sector's food and drink companies. While consumption patterns have been impacted by economic uncertainty, Portugal's exports of consumer-ready food products have continued, with further expansion predicted for the future (USDA, 2011).

Contact Information

The Embassy of Canada to Portugal
Street Address:
Edificio Victoria
Avenida da Liberdade,
196/200 3rd Floor
Lisbon, 1269-121

Mailing Address:
The Canadian Embassy
N-0244 Lisbon

Tel: (011-351-21) 316-4651
Fax: (011-351-21) 316-4695

Hours: Monday-Friday: 8:30 - 17:00 (E.S.T.: +5)

Territories/Responsibilities: Portugal, Azores, Madeira

Ms. Fatima Carvalho
Trade Commissioner
Agriculture, Food and Beverages, Fish and Seafood Products

Key Resources

  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. "Agri-Food Past, Present and Future Germany." Agri-Food Trade Service. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Sept. 2011.
  • "Agri-Food Past, Present & Future Report Portugal." Agri-Food Trade Service. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Apr. 2008.
  • Australian Government. "Portugal - Doing Business." Austrade. Australian Trade Commission, 2 July 2011.
  • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). "The World Factbook: Portugal." Central Intelligence Agency. N.p., 15 Nov. 2011.
  • Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). "Portugal." ViewsWire. The Economist Intelligence Group Limited, 2011.
  • "Portugal - Economy." ViewsWire. The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited, 2011.
  • Euromonitor International. "Consumer Foodservice in Portugal." Passport. Euromonitor International, Sept. 2011.
  • "Consumer Lifestyles in Portugal." Passport. Euromonitor International, 22 July 2010.
  • "Grocery Retailers – Portugal." Passport. Euromonitor International, Mar. 2011.
  • "Packaged Food - Portugal." Passport. Euromonitor International, Nov. 2010.
  • Export Development Canada (EDC). "Portugal." EDC. N.p., 2011.
  • "The Trade Opportunity Matrix (TOM): An Overview of Canadian Export Opportunities ." EDC. N.p., 12 Dec. 2008.
  • Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT). "Foreign Direct Investment Statistics." Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. N.p., 28 Nov. 2011.
  • International Monetary Fund (IMF). "Portugal." World Economic Outlook Database. International Monetary Fund, Oct. 2010.
  • Mendes, Diogo Machado. "Portugal - EXPORTER GUIDE ANNUAL." Global Agricultural Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture - Foreign Agricultural Service, 22 Mar. 2011.
  • "Portugal - Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards - Narrative: FAIRS Country Report." Global Agricultural Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture - Foreign Agricultural Service, 22 Nov. 2011.
  • "Portugal - FOOD PROCESSING SECTOR." Global Agricultural Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture - Foreign Agricultural Service, 6 May 2011.
  • Statistics Canada. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Dec. 2011.