How are our beef market forecasts shaping up?

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Back in July, we published our beef market outlook (part of our wider Agri Market Outlook), in which we produced short-term forecasts for production, imports, exports and consumption. Three months on, let’s see how our forecasts are shaping up.

Slaughter and production

In our outlook, we forecast that UK beef production would fall in 2021, compared to 2020, by around 4%. Slaughter of prime cattle and cows were each forecast to fall by 4% compared to a year ago. This was based on cattle population data from both Defra and the British Cattle Movement Service, as well as forecast lower beef consumption.

So far, our forecasts appear to be largely in-line with current figures. Defra production data show that in the year to September, beef production was indeed 4% lower year-on-year at 667,000 tonnes. Within this, prime cattle slaughter was also 4% lower at 1.5 million head.

So far this year, not as many cows have come forward as we’d forecast. Defra figures show 457,000 cows were processed between January and September (inclusive), which is 6% lower year-on-year.

Imports and exports

In July, we forecast that UK beef imports would fall slightly from 2020, by around 0.4%. Exports were forecast to fall by around 8% year-on-year. Factors behind this included disruption to trade flows post-Brexit, disruption to demand due to the pandemic, and lower production forecasts for both the UK and Europe, with Ireland being of particular interest. Volumes were expected to increase as the year progressed, as COVID-19 restrictions eased, demand began to return to typical levels and traders got to grips with the new trading landscape.

At the moment, we only have trade data to August. So far, trade figures show that both imports and exports are still considerably lower than they were for the same period a year ago (circa -11% and -19% respectively, CWE*). However, throughout the year, volumes for both imports and exports have generally been on an upward trend versus the same months in 2020.

So, what next?

We will be publishing our next round of sector outlooks in January. In the meantime, you can read our current outlooks, which include a longer-term focus on the environment.


*Trade forecasts are calculated in carcase weight equivalent (CWE)

Image of staff member Hannah Clarke

Hannah Clarke

Senior Analyst (Red Meat)

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