Global outlook

I sometimes struggle to decipher the hundreds of notes that I make each month. My trusty laptop computer also finds it a bit confusing! But it is interesting to reflect on some of the themes that run through most agendas.

For instance, we keep hearing about the forthcoming shortage of beef. The man from Defra was very clear when he said that when the Common Agricultural Policy changed to a direct payment not linked to production quantities the signs soon became clear that EU beef production would fall. Then we focused on just the next five years. Across the EU, it is already clear that farms will be giving us 4% less beef.

Whatever happens on this front, the fact is that if beef demand in the EU drops by just 1% over the next five years, which is what the forecasters are saying, then we will need to import another 175,000 tonnes of beef each year thereafter to make up for the domestic shortfall. This could be a problem since, apart from Brazil, none of the usual overseas suppliers are expecting to boost production.

My next batch of notes refers to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The man from Defra said that "the WTO seems to have gone to sleep for now". But another source said the economic crisis around the world could put more energy behind negotiations in order to get people trading again. He suggested that the WTO could always use some WD40 to loosen things up!

I find that whatever the place or the main subject, every meeting includes a reference to climate change. In the UK, 7% of all greenhouse gases arise from agriculture and half of this comes from livestock. Aircraft are also guilty as charged, so we could be getting to the real crunch decision rump steak or Ryanair you can't have both.

Liz Murphy, Director, IMTA