BELGIUM; Brussels. Despite attractive prices for producers, beef will remain scarce and expensive next year. Germany is particularly affected.
Prices for beef cattle in the European Union are currently higher than they have been for many years. The reason is a short supply compared to the brisk demand, which also applies to the world market. In its current fall forecast, the EU Commission assumes that the shortage trends will continue in 2022, as beef production in the Community is then expected to fall even more sharply than this year.
From January through July 2021, beef production in member states was curtailed 1.2% from the same period last year to 3.95 mill. t. However, due to high feed costs and producer prices, Brussels analysts expect increased slaughtering in the second half of the year, so the decline for the full year is expected to moderate at 0.5 % again by a good 60,000 t or 0.9% to just under 6.81 mill. t. This is likely to be helped by the fact that in June, cattle numbers in 13 major producing countries were down 0.6 year-on-year to 70.35 mill. head; cows were down 1.1% to 28.22 mill. head.
According to estimates by national experts in the EU Commission's forecasting group, different production trends are expected in the individual member states in 2022. For example, net beef production in Germany is predicted to decline by 5% to 1.04 mill. t, and in France, the largest EU producer, by 2.2% to just under 1.40 mill. t. Austria, the Netherlands and Spain are also expected to produce less beef. In Ireland, however, production is forecast to rebound by 6.2% to 615,000 t in 2022 following the Brexit slump this year. Production is also expected to increase in Denmark, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Sweden.
In its forecast, the EU Commission also expects beef consumption in the EU to decrease in 2022, by about 36,000 t or 0.5 year-on-year to 6.55 mill. t. However, this decline is expected to be smaller than on the production side. To compensate, EU analysts believe that beef imports by member states should increase, by about 10% to 354,000 t. However, beef is currently scarce and expensive on the world market. It is not certain whether this will change in 2022. Much will also depend here on the world's largest importer, China, whose beef imports have risen steadily in recent years.