Irish beef exports to France fell by 5% last year, with increased supplies of cow beef domestically in France to blame, according to the AHDB.

France is the main producer of cow beef in the EU and as output is moving up, import demand is in decline.

The AHDB says this is also having some impact on the cow beef market in other member states and especially those supplying France, which is the largest cow beef importer in the EU.

Herd re-building contributed to the sharp fall in female beef production in 2013. Since then it has recovered steadily, rising by about 3% per annum, including this year according to the latest forecast from the Institut de l’Elevage.

In addition, the AHDB says difficult milk market contributed to increased dairy cow cullings last year, this is expected to continue in 2016.

The further recovery in cow beef production last year resulted in another decline in import demand.

Most imported product in France consists of cow beef, with the exception of some veal from the Netherlands.

According to the AHDB, from January to November, imports were 7% down on the year earlier, at 242,000 tonnes, while the average import price was up just 2%.

It says there were reduced shipments from the three largest suppliers, with a combined market share of almost 60%, from the Netherlands, Germany and Ireland.

Shipments from Germany fell by 11%, with reductions of nearer 5% for the other two countries.

Meanwhile, a further reduction in imports, of 6% and so in line with previous falls, is forecast by the Institut de l’Elevage this year, given the expected domestic cow beef supply situation.

The AHDB says the EU cow beef market is very much a homogenous commodity market and developments in France, it being the largest producer, consumer and importer, inevitably impact on the EU market as a whole.

Also, it says the milk market is difficult throughout the EU, suggesting increased cow slaughterings in some other member states as well as a slow-down in dairy herd expansion.

The implications for price especially in France, according to the AHDB would suggest on-going pressure on the cow beef market this year.