What is the department’s outlook for sheep, pigs and poultry?

The Annual Review and Outlook 2020 for the agriculture sector was released today (Thursday, October 8) by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The document is divided into various chapters, one of which is on commodities and inputs, which details the economic performances of various sectors, and the future outlook for each.

In an earlier article, we covered what the document had to say about the outlook for dairy and beef. In this article, we turn our attention to the sheep, pig and poultry sectors.

Sheep

Looking at the outlook for the sheep sector going forward, the document highlights that Brexit uncertainty will remain a challenge, and thereafter the adaptation to the changing EU market.

Increasing global competition generally will be a challenge in the longer-term as countries such as New Zealand and Australia continue to hold the majority share in the market.

According to Teagasc forecasts, other externalities with the potential to impact on sheep supply include weather events and grazing problems. A significant gap between the EU and world prices will remain as a result of higher production costs and the presence of tariffs.

Increased diversification of markets remains a priority.

Pigmeat

On the outlook for pigmeat, the final outcome of talks on the post-Brexit trade environment will continue to determine the competitiveness of Irish pigmeat produce in the UK market.

Prices are expected to remain relatively high on the back of continuing Chinese demand, benefitting all players in the sectoral supply chain. However, much will depend on the continuing African swine fever (ASF) situation both within China and across the EU; trade relations between China and the US; and competition from peer exporting nations.

Expanding access into new markets such as Mexico and further penetration of lucrative Asian markets like China, Japan and South Korea will continue to be goals.

These and other factors such as farm viability; global market share; legislative changes at EU level; and a stable animal health situation will determine sectoral prosperity in the years to come.

Poultry

Finally, on the poultry sector, a key challenge going forward is the threat of disruption arising from the post-Brexit trading environment.

Apart from the possibility of a decline in exports to Britain – by far and away the largest destination for Irish poultry exports – its status as a ‘land bridge’ for exports onwards to the continent means it functions as an artery for trade to European destinations.

Outbreaks of salmonella and avian influenza in 2019 were a reminder of the need for continuing vigilance against all disease outbreaks and the need for biosecurity to remain at the centre of the sector’s strategy.

Global trade conditions will continue to play a crucial role in determining the outlook for the Irish poultry sector in the near future. In addition to the challenges caused by Brexit, opportunities may arise should EU restrictions on imports from Brazil continue or expand.

Developments such as the EU-Japan free trade agreement could lead to new opportunities in that area and, looking to southeast Asia, access for Irish poultry formed a key part of trade missions to Malaysia and Indonesia in 2018.

Also, the widespread public perception of poultry meat as a comparatively healthy and convenient form of animal protein also gives the sector an edge over ‘peer’ meat sectors.