High demand sees EU beef import quota filled in record time

Europe’s beef dealers have already hit the bloc’s beef import cap for the current quarter – six weeks before the start of the next one.

With just 0.01% of the quota remaining, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has warned that suppliers may be forced to stockpile beef until the next quarter opens on October 1.

“As interest of EU beef traders for importing beef into the EU’s High Quality Beef (HQB) quota is still increasing, competition between importers is intensifying,” it said in a report issued on Wednesday (August 30).

“This has led to the first quarter allotment of the HQB filling at the earliest date since the HQB was installed. This quota year, quarter one allotment was virtually filled by August 20, with six weeks to go before the next quarter opens on October 1.”

The EU’s High Quality Beef quota allows imports of up to 48,200t of beef from trading partners across the Americas and from Australia and New Zealand.

Most of the beef comes from South America. Last year Argentina exported roughly 20,000 tonnes and Brazil around 10,000.

Canada’s portion of the quota is being ring-fenced under the CETA trade deal, and that means the remaining countries eligible for the quota face a reduced cap.

Along with brisk demand, that lower quota is partly to blame for spiking import demand, according to USDA analysts.

“As the EU has yet to publish the change to the HQB quota, the expectation is that the quarterly HQB allocation for the October-December quarter will be reduced from 12,050 metric tonnes (MT) to 11,161 MT,” the USDA said.

“The reduction in the allocation of approximately 889 MT in the second quarter, taking effect in October, and 800 MT in following quarters will put further pressure on the quota,” the US department added.