EU beef production stable so far in 2021

Thursday, 2 September 2021

During the first five months of 2021, 2.7 million tonnes of beef was produced among EU member states, relatively unchanged compared to the same period a year ago (+0.2%).

Production was constrained during the first two months of the year, January in particular, but this was offset by increased output from March to May.

Looking at the data by country, Spain showed the largest actual increase in beef production over that time (+17,000 tonnes), followed by France (+10,000 tonnes) and Portugal (+3,000 tonnes). Italy and Poland also increased production.

On the other hand, lower production came largely from Ireland (-17,000 tonnes), Germany and Sweden (both -5,000 tonnes). The Netherlands and Belgium also produced less year-on-year.

Looking at the number of cattle slaughtered, a total of 9.2 million head were processed in the bloc between Jan-May (inclusive), up 0.8% compared to the same period a year ago. Unsurprisingly, Spain led the way (+63,000 head), followed by Italy (+31,000 head) and France (+23,000 head). Declines came from Ireland (-43,000 head), Turkey (-20,000 head) and Sweden (-17,000 head).

Irish slaughter increased in the fourth quarter of 2020, as processors looked to get animals through before the end of the Brexit deadline. This has had a knock-on impact on the slaughter figures in 2021, particularly in the first quarter. Lower production and tighter cattle supplies in Ireland have offered support to prices there recently.

The European Commission forecasts that beef production will decline by 1.4% for 2021 overall, driven partly by a shrinking cow herd. Consequentially, EU beef imports are forecast to increase by 8% for the year overall. According to Eurostat data, EU beef imports for Jan-May are currently down 19% year-on-year. An expectation of increased EU imports in the second half of the year, partly driven by increased foodservice activity, could be positive for UK beef exports. However, high domestic cattle prices could limit UK exports somewhat.

Image of staff member Hannah Clarke

Hannah Clarke

Analyst - Livestock

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