EU beef production expected to fall in 2020

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

By Felicity Rusk

The EU Commission has recently published the latest edition of its short-term outlook for agricultural markets. Note the outlook is now for the EU-27, so excludes the UK.

The Commission expects that EU beef production will fall by around 0.6% in 2020, due to a contraction in the herd size and weaker prices. This is in-line with the most recent forecast from the USDA. However, production in both Spain and Ireland buck this trend, and is expected to increase.

EU imports of beef rose in 2019 by almost 4% compared to 2018. A considerable proportion of this is due to growth in UK exports to EU member states, including Ireland (+11%), France (+27%) and the Netherlands (+26%). EU imports from Argentina also recorded marked growth. Looking ahead to 2020, the Commission expects EU imports to remain in-line with 2019 levels.

Meanwhile, EU exports of beef fell by 3% in 2019, due to a 10% decline in shipments to the UK. Looking ahead to 2020, the Commission expect exports to increase by around 1% on the year. This is in contrast to the latest USDA forecast, which suggested a 3% drop in exports. 

One of the key factors that will determine export levels is the demand from the Asian nations. Typically, the majority of EU exports to these nations is of higher-value cuts. As such, the economic disruption associated with COVID-19 could mean that consumers have less spending power in the longer term, and this could have a knock-on effect on import demand.

As a result of the tighter supplies and weakened demand from the foodservice sector, the Commission expected EU beef consumption to fall by around 0.7% on the year, to 10.6kg per capita.


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