EU beef production and imports lower

Wednesday, 24 November 2021


During the first eight months of 2021, EU beef production was 1% lower year-on-year in volume, totalling 4.4 million tonnes. 14.9 million cattle and calves were slaughtered, virtually unchanged versus the same period a year ago.

Trends have been maintained since the previous update; Ireland is still the main cause of decline, posting an 8% annual fall in production over the same period. Production was also lower in several other countries, including Germany, Poland and Belgium. Spain on the other hand showed a notable increase in production, up 6%. Figures for the EU’s largest beef producer, France, were virtually unchanged on the year.

The EU Commission forecasts that cattle slaughter will have increased in the second half of the year, considering the pull of high cattle prices and push of increasingly expensive feed costs. Total-year production is therefore forecast at -0.5% from 2020. For 2022, production is expected to contract further.


Trade friction between the EU and UK remains a key influence on EU beef trade figures. Nevertheless, EU beef exports for Jan-Aug grew by 1% to 137,000 tonnes, driven by growth to Norway and Bosnia & Herzegovina. There was also growth further east: to Japan, the Philippines and Hong Kong.

For imports, volumes decreased by 12% over the same period to 298,000 tonnes. This was largely driven by less beef imported from the UK. Smaller shipments also came from Argentina and Australia, while more beef was shipped in from Uruguay. Cattle supplies are tighter globally, which will be limiting volumes from key areas.

EU beef trade is expected to recover by the year-end, as export growth is forecast to continue, and EU foodservice markets reopen and require more imported beef. However, recent COVID-19 measures and new lockdowns in some areas may upset this forecast somewhat. 

Image of staff member Hannah Clarke

Hannah Clarke

Senior Analyst (Red Meat)

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