Suckler herd in older EU Member States set to fall by almost 1m head by 2030

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Suckler cow numbers in older EU Member States are expected to fall to 10.4m head by 2030 a decline of 8pc or -900,000 heads fewer than in 2018, according to an outlook report by the European Commissionn .

Meanwhile, in newer EU Member States the herd is likely to rise by one third (+320 000 heads) to 1.2m heads, notably in the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria.

Overall, the Commision says more than one third of the reduction expected for 2018-2030 in the EU-15 is likely to be replaced by expansion of the suckler cow herd in the EU-N13.

It says competition in economic and environmental terms with other agricultural activities such as dairy production is likely to reduce suckler cow herds further in certain intensive meat producing regions of the EU (such as the Netherlands).

In Ireland, the number of suckler farmers in the south and southeast has fallen by over 20pc since 2010, highlighting the scale of the exodus from beef. Nationally, 9,801 suckler farmers have exited the sector since 2010, a decline of almost 13pc.

Department of Agriculture data also shows that suckler cow numbers have fallen by 118,000 head in the five years from 2012 to 2017, with the bulk of the reduction concentrated in the south.

Meanwhile, the Commission also says that EU beef production is expected to return to a downward trend and gradually fall to 7.7million tonnes by 2030 (-500,000 t or -6pc compared to 2018).

It says the decline will be driven by developments in the domestic cow herd as previously described.

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Other factors include low profitability in the beef sector and weaker export prospects, even though prices will start to recover slightly in the middle of the projection period.

The production drop will take place despite an expected increase in the average carcass weight and against a background of relatively stable feed prices.

Beef consumption in the EU is expected to resume a downward trend, gradually declining from 11 kg per capita in 2018 to 10.4 kg per capita in 2030.

Convergence within the EU will remain limited. Consumption is expected to decline in the EU-15 and flatten in the EU-N13, leaving a significant gap (11.9 kg per capita against 4.0 kg per capita respectively) by 2030.

 

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