EU medium-term outlook

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

The EU Commission has published its medium-term outlook for agricultural markets, covering the period from 2021 to 2031. Global meat consumption is expected to continue growing by 1.4% per year, thanks to an increasing population and higher income in developing countries.

The outlook assumes the global economy rebounded in 2021 and will level off at an annual average level of growth of 2.7% by 2031. The EU economy is expected to recover to pre-COVID-19 levels by 2023. An increase in commodity prices, mostly energy prices, is contributing to high inflation at the moment. Nonetheless, the outlook assumes EU inflation to stabilise at 1.9% per year by 2025. The oil price is projected to rise moderately to 80 USD/bbl in 2031.

An additional 3.4 million tonnes of meat imports globally will be needed to close the gap between domestic consumption and production in many countries. However, sustainability is expected to play an increasingly prominent role in EU meat markets, both for producers and for consumers. As consumers’ environmental awareness, health considerations and convenience trends change, per capita EU meat consumption is projected to decline slightly to 67kg by 2031 from 69.8kg in 2018.

Demand for feed from arable crops is projected to decrease due to the decline in the EU pig, beef and dairy herds.



EU beef production is expected to fall by 600,000 tonnes (-8%) between 2021 and 2031. The total EU cow herd is set to decrease by 2.1 million head (-7%) by 2031. The dairy herd should decline progressively as milk yield increases, while the suckler cow herd is set to decrease to 10.1 million head by 2031 (-665,000 head), due to low profitability and increasing environmental concerns.

EU beef consumption, low in 2020 and 2021 due to the effects of COVID-19, will continue its downward trend. By 2031, it could drop from 10.6 kg to 9.7 kg per capita. However, world demand for beef is increasing, both for live animals and for meat. EU beef exports are due to improve moderately by 2031 (+0.6% per year), mainly thanks to continuing or rising demand in existing trade partners. The UK will remain the main destination, and trade should rebound after the decline since 2019, but probably not to the same level as before Brexit.

Current restocking in Brazil and Australia will support prices in the short run, helped by export restrictions in Argentina. Afterward, beef prices are expected to stabilise around 3,750 EUR/t due to high international demand.


Sheep meat

EU sheep meat production is expected to increase slightly by 0.3% per year in 2021-2031 (to 660,000t), underpinned by the implementation of voluntary coupled support, tight world supply, and improving prices for producers. EU per capita consumption of sheep meat is expected to grow slightly by 2031 and reach 1.4 kg per capita. This is due to diversification in the meat diet and consumption patterns in the EU population.

UK imports currently represent almost half of EU sheep meat exports. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the possible impact of trade agreements between the UK and Australia/New Zealand on EU exports. Looking at EU imports, if transport problems during COVID-19 are resolved, volumes will recover in the short run and slightly increase by 2031 to 166,000 tonnes. Even though the EU is still a major export destination, Australia and New Zealand will focus more on closer Asian markets.

After the peak in 2021, EU prices are expected to trend upwards, following developments in world market prices. A significant gap between prices in the EU and those in New Zealand and Australia will remain.


Pig meat

Uncertainties remain, especially concerning recovery from and bans due to African Swine Fever. China is expected to have fully recovered its own production capacity by 2026, drastically reducing its reliance on imports. That should have a massive impact on EU pig meat exports which are predominantly directed to China at the moment. While exports increased by 5.3% per year in 2011-2021, they are projected to decrease by 1.9% per year in 2021-2031.

EU pig meat consumption is expected to continue decreasing and production to start declining. In the EU, health, environmental and societal concerns should continue shifting consumer preferences and weigh negatively on EU pig meat consumption. As a result, apparent EU pig meat consumption per capita is projected to decrease by 0.5% per year, from 32.5 kg in 2021 to 31 kg in 2031.

Benefitting from good exports despite ASF, EU pig meat production increased by 0.6% per year in 2011-2021. However, ASF will have lasting effects in the EU, while export opportunities should gradually shrink overall. Therefore, EU pig meat production is projected to decrease by 0.8% per year in 2021-2031. The EU as a whole is likely to remain the world’s biggest exporter of pig meat, with a 37% market share in 2031.

EU pig meat prices are expected to remain “contained”. Asian demand and ASF in other regions of the world could push prices up until 2025. After that, EU prices are expected to decrease slowly, in line with an increasing world supply, to reach 1,500 EUR/t by 2031.


Sign up for regular updates

Subscribe to receive pork market news straight to your inbox. Simply complete our online form.

Visit the Keep in touch page

While AHDB seeks to ensure that the information contained on this webpage is accurate at the time of publication, no warranty is given in respect of the information and data provided. You are responsible for how you use the information. To the maximum extent permitted by law, AHDB accepts no liability for loss, damage or injury howsoever caused or suffered (including that caused by negligence) directly or indirectly in relation to the information or data provided in this publication.

All intellectual property rights in the information and data on this webpage belong to or are licensed by AHDB. You are authorised to use such information for your internal business purposes only and you must not provide this information to any other third parties, including further publication of the information, or for commercial gain in any way whatsoever without the prior written permission of AHDB for each third party disclosure, publication or commercial arrangement. For more information, please see our Terms of Use and Privacy Notice or contact the Director of Corporate Affairs at  © Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. All rights reserved.