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Beef is Moving Up Market

05 March 2013

ANALYSIS - World meat demand is expected to keep growing at a rate of 1.7 per cent a year between 2012 and 2022, according to the latest estimates from the European Commission, writes Chris Harris.

Most of this rise will be seen in developing third country markets.

However, according to Jean Pierre Garnier, (pictured), the export manager for EBLEX, it is expected that the EU share of the global meat trade will rise from 13.7 per cent to about 15 per cent.

Around the world the major shift in production is also going to be seen in the developing nations and in particular the BRIC countries with Brazil and Argentina both showing rising in production of beef over this last year and next year. Production increases are also expected in India, China South Africa and Australia.

However, the traditionally large producers of beef - the US and Europe have seen big dips over the last year with the US showing an even greater dip in production in the current year.

"India has become the world biggest exporter of beef, increasing its share of world trade," Mr Garnier told the recent Outlook 2013 conference in London.

"There is also growth in New Zealand and Australia," he added.

Mr Garnier said that world consumption of beef is very robust at the moment, particularly in Asia and South America, but he said that there will be slower production growth in Brazil due to competition with soya from 2014.

""But high feed costs will favour grass feeding nations," he said.

He added that the gap between beef prices in the EU and the world price is narrowing with beef in the US becoming more expensive.

There is also going to be tighter supplies in the EU in the near future which will bring higher prices.

Mr Garnier said that one of the influential producers on the EU market, Ireland had seen production fall by more than 30 per cent between 1999 and 2012, with a particular accent on a drop in the amount of steer beef being produced and a rise in the amount of young bull beef. This meat a change in quality for the beef coming from Ireland.

With this change in dynamics, the UK was in a very strong position to market quality beef across Europe and good prices.

The scene was even more enticing for UK quality beef producers because the European market had seen down trading in many countries and there has been an increase in sales of minced or ground beef.

The situation at retail level in Europe is extremely difficult with higher beef prices, the need to address the fall of incomes and fight local price wars meaning that retailers are sacrificing margins and, importantly, quality.

This will open up the market for premium beef.

Mr Garnier added that there are also more high grade premium beef restaurants opening up across Europe, creating a new market for high quality beef.

At present UK exports are stabilising at around 18 per cent of output.

However, while the premium market in Europe is opening up, the UK still exports a lot of bone in cow beef, which represents a third of all exports, and it is also opening up markets for the fifth quarter although Mr Garnier added that the industry needs to add more value to these fifth quarter by-products.

"In 2006, the Great British product was the cheapest in Europe - now it is the most expensive," said Mr Garnier.

"This means the UK has to change the way it is marketing and selling beef."

Due to the high prices and limited supplies, we are not anymore a high volume exporter for key cuts and prime beef carcases.

Beef is moving up-market.

Chris Harris

Chris Harris

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