The volume of beef being imported by the European Union (EU) from Brazil and other South American countries has been forecasted to grow by a further 2% this year.

A recent outlook report from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) noted that EU beef imports “are set to grow by 2% in 2024, driven by Brazil”.

The AHDB report outlined that EU beef production decreased by 3.9% in 2023 and a further 2.3% in 2024. The report attributed the decrease in 2023 to “structural adjustments in the beef and dairy sectors“.

The trend of declining beef production has supported high prices and the European Commission suggests this theme may continue.

Of the larger producing countries, Italy saw the steepest decline with production down 17%, driven by shortages of imported live animals.

The December 2023 livestock survey reported a reduction of suckler cows in the EU by -1.6% or 160,000 head, while dairy cow numbers have declined by -1.7% or 344,000 head.

Despite attractive EU prices, beef imports have not covered the decrease in production.

The AHDB report noted that the UK had the most downward pressure on EU import levels following a stronger year of trading in 2022 while increased imports arrived from Brazil and Argentina.

The AHDB outlook said:

“Providing imports are not diverted to other key markets, such as in the US and China, they are set to grow by 2% into the EU in 2024, driven by Brazil.”

The report warned that an El Niño effect in Australia could alter this projection.

The AHDB outlook for EU beef exports was that a slight decline by 1% in 2024 is expected due to lower cattle inventories. It noted that EU exports face high domestic prices “but continue to perform well”.

The reopening of some markets has supported this uplift.

Beef consumption in 2023 per capita in the EU has dropped by 4.7% year-on-year. The 2024 outlook is similar, with consumption predicted to fall by a further 2.8%.