Beef exports started falling in December 2017, and this has continued into this year, with exports almost 15% lower in the first four months of 2018 year-on-year.
Hong Kong (-7%) and Bosnia & Herzegovina (-17%) were key problem markets, especially as they were the second and third most important export destinations for EU beef. In January-April 2018, EU beef exports to other key destinations, such as Switzerland, Norway, the Philippines and Algeria, also fell, although sales to Turkey (now the top importer) and Israel rose.
One reason for the fall is that Brazil increased its beef exports by 25% in these months year-on-year, mainly to Hong Kong, China, Egypt, the EU and Chile. The US, Argentina, New Zealand and Paraguay also expanded their exports, including to traditional EU export partners.
“The outlook for EU exports in 2018 is therefore bleak (-6%), as there is little potential for expansion, and will depend mainly on two markets: Turkey and Israel,” said the Commission note.
Meanwhile, EU beef imports are projected to be 8% higher across 2018, with Brazil increasing deliveries after recovering from the 2017 meat heath scandal and Argentina exports growing 40% year-on-year for January-March 2017.
There was a similar grim forecast for sheep and goat meat exports – expected to fall 7% across 2018. Exports to key Middle East partners – Oman, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – dropped significantly and Algeria has stopped importing from the EU.
Also, EU exports of live sheep were down 10% for January-April and were expected to fall 20% across 2018, with sales to the key Libyan market more than halving, as this unstable strife-wracked country suffers liquidity problems.
Sheepmeat imports to the EU are projected to be stable, however. And net sheep and goat meat production in the EU increased 7% year-on-year in the first quarter, but that followed a 7% fall last year.
There is better news for EU pigmeat exports, which the Commission has projected will rise 2.5% in 2018, with increasing sales to South Korea, the US, Japan and the Philippines making up for falls in sales to China.
The Commission is also projecting a 2.5% increase for EU poultry exports across 2018, with an 8% year-on-year increase during January-April, mostly due to the Philippines, where a bird flu ban had reduced exports the previous year.
To access the full report, go to https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/food-farming-fisheries/farming/documents/agri-short-term-outlook-summer-2018_en.pdf.
Meanwhile, UK red meat exports hit the £1.2 billion mark last year, according to figures from the country’s customs body HMRC.