Food processing is one of Latvia’s oldest and most important industries. Combining the natural products of one of Europe’s cleanest environments with modern manufacturing technologies enables us to produce delicious, safe, and healthy food.
Almost 20% of Latvia’s territory is arable land, and most ingredients are locally grown, providing producers with a robust and efficient supply chain. Producers have a broad range of domestic suppliers to choose from, enabling healthy competition in terms of price and quality. Latvia’s food processing companies have developed and upgraded their production facilities to guarantee that domestic food products are of high and stable quality, manufactured according to international standards such as ISO, HACCP, IFS and BRC as well as various eco- and bio-certificates.
Similarly to previous years, the manufacturing of food and drink was the second largest manufacturing industry in Latvia, based on its production volume (23.5% in 2014), surpassed only by the woodworking industry (26.8%). The sector employs more than 20% of the workers in manufacturing industries.
More than 900 businesses operate in Latvia’s food and drink industry whose total turnover reached 1.8 billion euros in 2014. Of this, 25% was contributed by dairy product manufacturing; the meat processing sector ranked second with 17%, beverage manufacturing held third place with 13%, just 1% ahead of fish processing. This breakdown of manufacturing reflects Latvia’s geographic location and climate.
Food and agricultural products were the main export commodity groups, accounting for 19.3% of the total value of exports in 2014, leaving woodworking products in second place. The export of food and agricultural products to the European Union (EU) and to third countries was similar – in 2014, 55% of the products were exported to the internal EU market, but 45% were sold to third countries, including 31% to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The most common export destination was the Russian Federation, which accounted for 26% of total export volume for agricultural and food products. Other popular destinations for Latvia’s food exports are Lithuania, Estonia, Poland and Germany.
Latvia boasts many traditional food products, popular with locals but also successfully carrying the country’s name into the world. One shining example is traditional Latvian rye bread, made in every bakery large and small, each with its own subtle variation. Another traditional treat is the Sklandrausis – a special rye-bread pastry topped with carrot and potato. Latvians are also proud of their unique Jāņi cheese with caraway, river-mouth lamprey from Carnikava and our large grey peas, served in a classic peasant style. All of these treats have been included in one of the EU’s Registers: PDO (protected designation of origin), PGI (protected geographical indication) or TSG (traditional speciality guaranteed).
Latvia’s food industry is staying abreast of and following global trends, such as changes in daily food consumption habits towards a healthier lifestyle, and meeting the demand for higher-quality food products. That demand in itself indicates an improvement in Latvia’s quality of life.
Source: Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia, www.csb.gov.lv
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