SPAIN IS THE world's largest producer of olive oil, the third-largest producer of wine and a significant exporter of fruit, vegetables and meat, including the world-famous Serrrano ham. Spanish produce, however, remains largely under-represented in Hong Kong, in the opinion of Spanish consul and trade commissioner Inigo Febrel. He sees participation in Hofex 2005 as a way to rectify the situation. 'A total of 24 companies are taking part,' Mr Febrel said. 'Wine, of course, is represented, as well as olive oil and olives, confectionery and chocolate. One exhibitor also has cheese, including the famous Manchego from La Mancha. 'There is some Spanish cheese available in Great in Pacific Place, CitySuper and ParknShop, but we are not as well represented as we might be.' Spain has many regional varieties, but Manchego is the country's best-known cheese. It is a semi-hard sheep's milk cheese that is sold fresh or aged. Other great cheeses from Spain gaining a following overseas include Cabrales, a matured blue cheese made in the Asturias and Cantabrica regions; Idiazabal, a waxy ewe's milk cheese from the Basque region; Majorero, a goat's milk cheese from the Canary Islands; Mahon, a cow's milk cheese from Catalonia; and Tetilla, a creamy cow's milk cheese made in the shape of a woman's breast, from Galicia. Cheese in Spain is often served with fresh fruit and a quince paste called membrillo, both of which, along with Spanish wine, will be on offer at the Spanish Pavilion. Mr Febrel said Spanish fruit and vegetables, including olives, were widely available in Hong Kong but generally not shipped directly from Spain. The country is a major supplier of olive oil to Italy, much of which is re-exported under Italian brands. 'You see plenty of Spanish olives here, but not with Spanish brands,' Mr Febrel said. 'We are well represented in Japan. Japanese people travel quite often to Spain. They know Spanish hams and olive oils, and they ask for them when they go back home.' Not many Hong Kong people travelled to Spain, which may explain the comparatively low demand for Spanish produce in the city, Mr Febrel said. Hong Kong may be a relatively small market, but it was a strategically important one, he said. 'We have several products that could be important in Hong Kong,' he said. 'Wine, of course, and I think Spanish ham should also be appreciated here. It has a different taste from other cured hams. And of course cheese, olives and other fruits. Spanish olive oil sales in Hong Kong are not bad but still not up to our potential.' Although Spain's Serrano cured ham shares a similar international standing as Italy's Parma or France's Bayonne, the unique Iberico ham stands out with its markedly different flavour. 'Iberico ham is different from other hams,' Mr Febrel said. 'It has a distinctive taste. We think it could be appreciated in Hong Kong. Because of the way it is produced it is more expensive than other hams, but Hong Kong people are as concerned about quality as price.'