Speaking at the EU Commission Civil Dialogue Meeting in Brussels on beef this week, IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods said the prospects for the EU beef market for 2017 look more positive than 2016. He said the latest forecast results on beef, presented at the Civil Dialogue Meeting show that EU production is set to fall and prices are forecasted to rise in 2017.
In addition, he said the EU Commission are predicting that the strong trade balance of exports over imports will increase in 2017, driven by continued growth in live exports, mainly to Turkey.
Angus Woods said the 2016 figures show that beef production increased by 2.6%, driven by a 7% increase in cull cow slaughterings as a result of the fallout from the dairy sector, which caused the beef price problems in 2016. EU beef prices fell by about 15c/kg in 2016 over 2015 levels. For 2017, the EU is forecasting that beef production will fall by 0.25% or over 20,000t and both male and female cattle prices are forecast to increase.
On EU exports, Angus Woods said the Commission pointed out export volumes were up 18% at 702,337t. The biggest export market was Turkey, taking 10% or 71,200t, the majority of which was live cattle. He said the EU Commission highlighted the importance of live trade to Turkey, describing it as a vital value added market outlet. Live cattle exports make up 52% of the total value of EU beef exports.
Angus Woods said IFA highlighted the impact of Brexit on the Irish beef sector, pointing out that in the second half of 2016 producers took a price hit of €150m, mainly as a result of the Sterling devaluation.
He said IFA make it clear at the meeting that no other Member State, and no other sector, is as exposed in Brexit negotiations. The UK is our closet market, of high value, with similar preferences. He said the IFA has identified that, if the UK exits the Single Market and Customs Union, there must be a Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the EU and UK, which would include the following specific elements: Tariff-free trade for agricultural products and food, maintenance of equivalent standards on food safety, animal health, welfare and the environment, and the application of the Common External Tariff for imports to both the EU and UK.
The IFA Livestock Chairman said the UK is the market for 50% of Irish beef exports. “It’s a high-value market and consistently pays above the EU average. Any reduction in access to, or the value of, the UK market would have a very negative impact on the Irish beef sector, and potentially the overall European beef market.”
Brazilian Meat Scandal
On the Brazilian Meat scandal, Angus Woods said IFA made it absolutely clear to the EU Commission that they must take stronger action against Brazil.
The IFA Livestock leader said the latest reports from Brazil clearly indicate that basic requirements around standards, traceability and food safety are still not being met in Brazil. He pointed out that it is nearly 10 years since IFA uncovered serious failures in the way the authorities monitor and oversee the implementation of standards in Brazil that are the norm for European farmers and the food industry.
Under questioning on the EU audits in Brazil, the Commission said they will agree to undertake a series of additional FVO audits on the meat sector in Brazil commencing next month. Angus Woods said these audits need to be thorough, get to the real truth with clear and decisive follow up action.