Portugal: Health exports over double in ten years, reach €1.74 bln

Health exports from Portugal have increased 150% in the last decade, reaching €1.74 billion in 2020, which shows the sector’s resilience, according to Health Cluster Portugal.

The entity, citing data from the Agency for Investment and Foreign Trade of Portugal (AICEP), with  Statistics Portugal (INE) as its source, concluded that health exports grew 11.11% in 2020 in counter-cycle with the Portuguese trade balance that decreased by 10%, compared to 2019.

According to the same entity, health growth is strongly linked to basic pharmaceutical products that increased more than 25% and in pharmaceutical preparations, which grew 11.02%. While 2019 exports in health exceeded €1.5 billion, in 2020, they reached €1.74 million, values that mirror a sector in permanent growth, even during the pandemic.

Speaking to Lusa, Joaquim Cunha, executive director of Health Cluster Portugal, said that stability in the sector is related to its characteristics and context.

“The market is particular and regulated,” he said, adding that it is therefore not easy to enter certain markets, and that is the negative part.

“The positive part is that once you get in, things tend to stick. There is a certain stability in the sector, and it is immune to certain cycles because it is always needed,” he said.

The pandemic, he said, even if negative aspects dominate it, has made health more central.

“A year ago, countries were almost at war over masks and ventilators. From one moment to the next, we realised a certain fragility. There is a strategic autonomy in health that is forcing us to think,” he said.

Joaquim Cunha said the Recovery and Resilience Plan, now in public consultation, could be an instrument to strengthen the sector.

“I believe that health can be the engine of recovery,” he said, noting that the sector should not only be seen as a cost.

“It has to be seen as an investment. We are investing in ourselves, but also in a sector that can generate considerable wealth,” Cunha added.

Data from Health Cluster Portugal, a private non-profit association that currently brings together more than 180 associates in Portugal, said that health represents an annual turnover of around €30 billion and a gross value added of around €9 billion, involving close to 90,000 companies and employing almost 300,000 people.