EU medium-term outlook for agriculture – 2020 to 2030

February 22, 2021 - The European Commission has recently published its medium-term outlook for agricultural markets. This report covers the EU-27 and so excludes the UK.

According to the latest EU outlook, global meat consumption is expected to continue to grow at an estimated 1.1% per year. However, meat consumption in the EU is expected to fall 1.6% per capita by 2030. An anticipated key factor in EU meat markets is sustainability, which could lead to a smaller EU livestock herd by 2030. Total EU meat production is expected to decline, though innovation and technological improvements increase efficiency.

EU beef production is expected to fall by 8% (0.6 million tonnes) between 2020 and 2030. The total EU cow herd is expected to contract by 2.2 million head (-7%) by 2030, reflecting increases in milk yields reducing the need for dairy cows. The suckler herd is expected to decline, driven by a loss of profitability, due in part to lower farmgate prices seen currently. As such, the suckler herd is expected to contract to 9.9 million head by 2030.

In the coming years, EU beef prices are expected to remain under pressure due to large supplies from Brazil, the US and Argentina. However, deceleration in world production could see prices lift slightly between 2025 and 2030.

Meanwhile, beef consumption in the EU is expected to continue its downward trend, having been heavily impacted by COVID-19 in 2020. Overall, lower production and stable imports are expected to be in line with lower consumption, dropping from 10.6kg to 9.7kg per capita by 2030.

The outlook for the EU pork industry will remain uncertain in the medium-term. Environmental concerns in several EU countries and the impact of ASF are expected to limit EU pork production. As such, EU pig meat production is expected to fall by 4.6% (1 million tonnes) between 2020 and 2030.

In the short-term, demand for EU pig meat is expected to decline which could see prices drop back. This is a result of anticipated ASF recovery in China’s production levels which will likely reduce import demand from Europe over the next year. Despite this, the European Commission expects EU prices to recover by 2030 to an estimated €1,600/tonne, as production falls.

EU pig meat consumption is also expected to continue to fall in the medium term. While levels are expected to recover slightly in 2021, the European Commission anticipates consumption will still fall by 1.4kg per capita by 2030.

EU sheep (and goat) meat production is expected to remain stable over the next decade, at around 630,000 tonnes. Production will remain concentrated in a few EU member states, with Spain, Greece, France and Ireland producing more than half of total EU sheep meat in 2019.

Similarly, EU consumption of sheep meat is expected to remain stable by 2030, virtually unchanged on 2020 levels, at 1.3kg per capita.

Following a peak in 2020, EU sheep meat prices are expected to fall in the short term, followed by a recovery between 2025 and 2030. The gap between EU and New Zealand prices is expected to remain in place. The EU experiences higher production costs and less pressure from world prices.

The withdrawal of the UK from the EU is significant for the EU sheep sector. The UK was the EU’s largest producer and is also a key sheep meat importer. Although a trade deal has been struck, it remains to be seen what effect trade friction will have on long-term trade in both directions, and whether there will be re-routing of trade flows.