EU predicts losing meat exports to competition

The European Union’s meat sector will continue to lose exports to non-EU countries over the next 10 years, creating trade deficits for all major market segments, except pigmeat, a European Commission commodity forecast to 2020 has predicted.

Even for poultry — which alone of major European meat sub-sectors increased production in 2008 and 2009 — exports from the European Union will be outstripped by imports over the next 10 years. By 2020, 155,000t more poultry will be imported than exported, it claimed.

Very little pigmeat is imported into Europe, partly on health grounds, and that will continue. But beef, veal and sheepmeat are already imported in larger quantities than exports.

And for beef and veal, this situation would worsen, said the Commission. This sub-sector has been knocked hard by the recent price-fall crisis in the European dairy industry, reducing herd sizes along with bluetongue disease in both France and Spain.

“Reflecting the impact of herd de-stocking and disease related losses, EU beef and veal production is estimated to have fallen by almost 2% in 2009, below the level of 8mt. Meat exports fell by 25% to 124,000t [through] lower export demand, higher competition on world markets and a more restricting Russian import policy,” noted the Commission, predicting exports would fall towards 70,000t by 2020.

One wild card, however, is the euro (for countries using the single currency). The analysis was written before recent falls in the euro, and assumes a strong currency, making exports more expensive.

“Prospects for poultry meat exports are constrained by the assumed strengthening of the euro,” said the report. Further financial crises, maybe in Spain and Portugal, might undermine that assumption and cheapen EU meat exports. As for EU production, it will grow steadily only for poultry: “Growth in production for other meats would remain sluggish at an average annual rate of 0.3%, said the Commission.”