Richard Brown, a consultant with international analyst group Gira, gave overviews of each of the various protein sectors during the committee meetings of the WMC in Paris this week.
Overall, the picture was one of optimism, with prices strong across lamb, pork and beef products, but he said farmers remained cautious about investing.
While there had been some recovery of flock numbers when it came to sheep in the UK, Ireland and most strongly Australia, he said there remained little signs of investment in increasing either the flock, or the beef breeding herd in South America, despite the strong prices across both proteins.
On sheep, he said: “We’re living in a time of much higher producer prices than we’ve seen in a long time, and we’re seeing an improving morale among sheep farmers around the world. However, there’s still a lot of caution in the minds of farmers and we’re not seeing much increase in breeding numbers.”
Referring to the global export market, he said that Chinese production appeared to have plateaued, yet demand was still increasing, representing a good opportunity for sheep meat. However, he stressed that the high price of the product meant scope was limited and the product was only really available for markets that could afford it.
When it came to beef, he said the picture was equally positive, but there were issues, and those who relied on grain to feed cattle would find it difficult to control costs.
Demand for beef was growing in the developing world: “The story there is very positive, but what is not so positive is that we’re seeing consumption difficulties in Europe and North America. It’s a worry, but not a catastrophe.”
He said the depression was down to the higher prices for beef, but people were still buying the meat.
On pork, he said the market had seen very good price rises in the last year, mainly driven by production depression due to diseases in the Far East. However, he pointed out that China had bounced back from their own problems much more quickly than expected and this would have an effect.
A problem to tackle and look out for as well, he added, was the introduction of African Swine Fever in Russia and concerns it could spread into the wider European production pool.