‘We’ve come out of a decade of steady growth’ – Bord Bia meat seminar

Despite a challenging year for trade, “we’ve come out of a decade of steady growth” for the meat sector across the world.

This is according to Rupert Claxton of Gira, who spoke at the Bord Bia Meat Marketing Seminar last week.

He said that most of that growth has “really come out of the pork industry in China and the poultry industry around the world”.

“Beef and sheepmeat around the world have been a bit more static. We’ve seen more demand but there isn’t as much opportunity for growth,” he said.

Then we come into this ASF [African swine fever] period. What we see in 2019 and 2020 is a decline in pork production because of ASF in Asia and the most abrupt decline comes in China.

“That abrupt decline in 2020 we see is due to ASF, not due to Covid, but it hasn’t been helped by Covid.”

Sinéad McPhillips of the Department of Agriculture said that with beef, “we had one significant setback in 2020, when following confirmation of an atypical BSE case in May, Ireland voluntarily suspended beef exports to China, in line with our beef protocol”.

“We have had ongoing, intensive government diplomatic and technical contacts in the period since then,” she said.

“We’ll maintain excellent relationships with our Chinese counterparts, and remain confident that trade will be allowed to resume.

But, the timing for that decision does remain in the hands of the Chinese authorities.

“On a positive note, we have made some significant progress in 2020 despite the challenges arising.

“We were very happy after many years of persistent effort and engagement to achieve pigmeat access to the Mexican market in 2020 for the first time.

“In 2021, our focus on meat market access will be mainly, but not exclusively, on Asian markets.”

‘In the hands of those competent authorities’

While the “overriding priority” for beef will be to resume trade with China, it is also hoped to advance market access with South Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand.

“For sheepmeat, our priorities will be progressing access to China, the US and Saudi Arabia. For pigmeat, our priorities will include access to Malaysia and Thailand, which we hope to engage with their authorities to progress.

“For poultry, our priorities will include to progress our discussions with Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.

“That is a busy and ambitious agenda; and obviously the timing of all of those decisions remains in the hands of those competent authorities.”

Key points from each sector

The total exports of Irish primary beef were valued at €1.9 billion, a 2% reduction on 2019. Exports of offals were valued at €180 million, a 10% reduction relative to 2019.

Continental EU exports made up 45% of beef exports, valued at €845 million, which was down 7%. The UK made up 44% of exports, valued at €835 million, down 1%. International exports made up 11%, at €207 million, up 24%.

Overall cattle supplies for the year show a rise of 61,200 head / 3.5%. At the end of June, throughput was running 35,000 head below 2019 levels.

EU beef market trends in 2021 are expected to be impacted by lower overall beef consumption; lower EU production and import demand; restrictions maintaining impact on foodservice; competition from cheaper proteins; ASF effect in Germany; and Brexit-related impacts on time and cost of transport to continental EU.

Irish pig supplies increased by 4% to 3.9 million head, and EU pig supplies fell by 0.5% to 243 million head. EU pigmeat exports increased by 17%, and international demand helps lift producer prices.

2021 market prospects include EU pigmeat supplies to fall by 1%; Chinese production challenges despite investment; and strong European retail demand forecast.

Poultry supplies increased by 3%, with poultry export volume 4% higher at 124,000t, while poultry export value 2% lower at €152 million. 2021 market prospects include global chicken output to increase by 1% to 102 million tonnes; and EU chicken output to fall by 1% to 12.1 million tonnes.

There was an increased sheepmeat production (+3%) in 2020. Overall, Irish sheepmeat export volumes increased by 4% to 75,000t and the value of these exports increased by 12% to just shy of €360 million. There was a 3% decline in EU lamb production and a 4% reduction in the volume of lamb imported.