Poland could soon emerge as the largest exporter of beef to Italy the EU largest importer, according to a recent analysis by the AHDB.

It says the Italian beef market has remained under some pressure in 2015. Demand has been weak and consumption has fallen.

This has reduced import demand for beef this year so far, it says with shipments are down by 5% in the first eight months of 2015.

According to the AHDB, the lower import demand has adversely affected both France and Germany, two of the main suppliers of young bull beef to Italy.

Despite this, it says the on-going change in the demand profile to a switch to cheaper supply sources and cuts continues to benefit Poland.

Shipments though were only up 1% in the January to August period this year, after a more significant growth in previous years.

However, the AHDB says its market share has continued to edge up and is now at 19%. This is very close to the current 21% share for France, traditionally the main supplier to the Italian market.

Ten years ago Polish market share was only 6%.

Irish beef

In contrast, the AHDB says shipments from Ireland were well down, by almost 20%. It says this is due to Irish exporters having been more focussed on northern member states.

The analysis says there was a similar decline for the UK, although it is only a marginal supplier to Italy, with a market share of 1%  compared with 6% for Ireland.

Consumer demand

The AHDB says latest research suggests 6% decline in total purchases of beef and veal by Italian households in the first nine months of 2015. This is after a small recovery in 2014.

It says there was also a further setback in the autumn following publicity given to the WHO report about whether meat could be carcinogenic, although this could eventually work in favour of fresh meat to the detriment of charcuterie.

On a positive note, the AHDB says the Italian economy is showing signs of a cyclical upturn. It says low inflation, employment growth and tax cuts are expected to boost real disposable income and thus private consumption growth.

Any improvement in demand for beef in Italy will inevitably have positive implications for the EU beef market in general.

Of the Member States, Italy is by far the largest importer of beef. Volumes are 605 higher than those of the United Kingdom, the second largest.

Forecasts for 2016 indicate that imports will be more stable after the significant decline this year, the AHDB says.