Success by European Union exporters in finding alternative markets to Russia, after Moscow banned ag imports from the bloc, sparked upgrades to hopes for beef and pork shipments – the latter to a 23-year high.
The US Department of Agriculture bureau based in the Hague, Netherlands pegged EU beef shipments outside the region this year at a four-year high of 325,000 tonnes.
Besides representing a rise of 8.0% year on year, shipments at that level would be 80,000 tonnes higher than the USDA has officially forecast.
For pork, the bureau forecast EU exporters shipping 2.25m tonnes outside the bloc, a figure 50,000 tonnes higher than the USDA has forecast, and a number which would represent the highest since 1992.
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The estimates reflect the ability of merchants to find alternative buyers to Russia, historically a major customer, but which banned ag imports from the EU and some other Western powers in August in tit-for-tat sanctions after Russia was targeted by curbs over its role in stirring the Ukraine crisis.
In fact, Russia had already banned EU pork imports, last February, after an outbreak of African swine flu in Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.
In pork, the EU industry “is expanding trade to Asia”, the bureau noted.
“Exports rose more significantly to South Korea and Japan,” with the latter doubling purchases of Spanish pork last year.
This year, “EU pork exports are expected to further expand to the Asian and African markets”, helped by the weakness of the euro, and increasing efficiency which is boosting Europe’s output.
The bureau pegged EU pork output this year rising 2.7% to 22.46m tonnes, rather than falling marginally as the USDA has forecast.
For beef, Asia has also provided a source of alternative import demand to Russia, with Hong Kong for instance raising volumes of imports from the EU, “mainly from the UK and Ireland”.
“The EU found easily alternatives to the Russian market,” the bureau said, highlighting the “tight global beef supply”, a reflection of moves by Australian and US industries to rebuild cattle herds.
“The outlook for EU beef exports looks promising.”
The bureau’s upbeat beef export estimate comes despite it foreseeing only a small rise in EU beef production this year, of 30,000 tonnes to 7.44m tonnes, thanks moves to expand dairy herds after milk output quotas cease.
“The slaughter of cows is expected to fall after April, with the liberalisation of the dairy market in effect,” the bureau said, although noting that the pace “could be sustained at a high level if milk prices drop further”.