EU exports to “flourish” in 2012 but future capacity constricted

By Arabella Mileham

- Last updated on GMT

EU exports to “flourish” in 2012 but future capacity constricted
EU exports to “flourish” in 2012 but future capacity constricted
Meat exports from the European Union (EU) are expected to grow by around 3.6% during 2012 as global demand remains strong, despite both production and consumption across the EU declining, a forecast has said. However, falling livestock numbers may constrict future export capacity.

The Short Term Outlook for arable crop, meat and dairy markets, published by the European Commission, said that EU meat consumption was down 0.8% in 2012, and was expected to fall 0.4% in 2013, as high prices, continued economic woes and tight supplies bite deeper. However, the report said that this factor would fuel increased exports, driven by strong global demand and a weak euro.

The report found that the EU livestock herd across had contracted, according to the December 2011 census, and would continue to fall over the next two years, keeping prices high. Cattle numbers were down 1.4% to 86m head, with pig numbers declining by 1.7% to 148m, and sheep and goat numbers falling 2.9% to 98m. The poultry sector was the only area likely to increase in both consumption and production over the course of 2012 and 2013. The report said its "dynamic exports​" were also likely to continue, up 14% in 2012.   

The prognosis for beef and veal across the EU was less promising, with production expected to fall “significantly​” over the next two years – down 3.5% in 2012 and rising very slightly (+0.1%) in 2013 – spurred on by the loss of breeding females. While this is expected to keep beef prices high and exports strong, the shortage of domestic supply may in turn change the EU into a net beef importer during 2012 and 2013, the Commission forecast warned, as export capacity contracts and beef production outside the EU gradually recovers.

Pigmeat production is also due to decline by around 2% in 2013, with the new legislation on partial sow-stalls having a “significant​” although as yet uncertain impact on both production and exports. The numbers of pigs is expected to fall by 1.7% in 2013 overall, although sow numbers are expected to decline further, by around 3.2%. The knock-on effect on exports is unlikely to be seen until 2013, when it is expected to fall by around 10%, despite growing demand from China and other global markets increasing exports during 2012.

Sheep numbers also saw a decline in consumption (down 1% in both 2012 and 2013) although overall production is expected to stabilise in 2012, after shrinking by 1% in 2011.  

The report also showed that lower imports of soybean and an unchanged forecast of oilmeal would limit availability for oilmeal for animal feed, down by around 2%.

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