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EU meat import surge forecast as demand improves

Europe will become a net importer of every type of meat except pigmeat by 2020, an EU Commission report has predicted.

Although total meat production is set to rise and Europe will remain a net meat exporter, the EU's trade position is forecast to weaken considerably.

This trend will be driven by a drop in beef and sheep meat production, a steady increase in imports of beef and poultry and a parallel decline in exports of beef, pig meat and poultry.

Although total European meat production will reach 44.4m tonnes in 2020, exceeding 2009 levels by 4pc, local meat demand is set to expand on the back of increased consumption, which will draw in more imports.

The EU Commission report forecasts that per capita meat consumption in the EU will rise by 2pc to 85.4kg by 2020.

The increase in pig and poultry consumption is identified as the primary driver of EU meat production growth.

Indeed, output of both pig and poultry meat is forecast expand by 7pc. In contrast, beef/veal production is likely to fall by 7pc in the next decade, while sheep and goat meat output will drop by 11pc.

Total meat imports are expected to grow by 14pc, while exports will fall by almost 23pc by 2020.

Despite these changes, the EU will still have net meat exports of around 200,000t.

Overall, European meat production is expected to recover over the short term from the decline suffered in the wake of the economic crisis, but longer-term growth prospects remain modest at an annual average rate of just 0.3pc.

European milk production will pick up gradually over the next decade, the report said, with a moderate rise of 4pc in total milk production by 2020.

Analysts predict that the ending of dairy quotas in 2015 will be relatively smooth.

Production of fresh dairy products, such as drinking milk, cream and yoghurts, are projected to increase by about 8pc by 2020, while cheese output is forecast to grow by about 10pc.

The outlook for cheese exports is positive as the EU is expected to retain a share in global cheese exports above 30pc.

Meanwhile, market conditions in the cereals sector will remain tight, according to the report. Analysts predict that stocks will be low and prices will therefore remain above long-term averages.

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