Livestock numbers are expected to rise 3% in the UK and 4% in Ireland, as a result of reduced imports from third countries and an increase in sheep meat prices. However, flocks will remain flat in southern Europe, and Spain should register a 9% drop in numbers, Idele said.
In France, Idele’s predictions went against previous forecasts from Eurostat, which said the French sheep flock would grow 2% in 2012. “Considering the significant number of ewes slaughtered in the spring of 2012 due to the drought, it is more realistic to predict a drop in sheep and slaughter numbers in 2012 (-2%),” said the institute, adding that French lamb consumption could also decline 2%.
In the UK, slaughterings should increase by 2% at least, strengthening Britain’s position on the export market, and leading to a potential 4% rise in shipments to the continent. UK imports will remain stable or decline slightly due to low supply from New Zealand, and sheep meat consumption could go down 0.5%.
In Ireland, higher sheep numbers should lead to a 4% increase in meat production, though levels will stay much lower than in the mid-2000s. A similar 4% increase is forecast in exports.
In Spain, slaughterings are expected to drop 3% due to lower supply, which will result in a 5% decrease in exports despite continued demand, Idele pointed out.
The organisation expects Australasia exports to remain limited, despite a recovery in sheep numbers. At the same time, growing demand from Asia should create opportunities for EU exporters.
These market conditions should support meat prices, which the institute believes will grow 2% in 2012.