April 6, 2021
EU's 2020 beef production fell 1.2% from 2019
The European Union has produced 6.8 million tonnes of beef in 2020, a 1.2% drop from 2019, according to data from the European Commission.
This is less of a drop than the commission forecast in its autumn short-term outlook, said the United Kingdom's Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).
Cattle slaughter overall in the bloc was running slightly above year-earlier levels until April, when production took a hit, likely due to the onset of COVID-19 disruption. Production then bounced back in June, potentially as some foodservice reopened and processors got to grips with COVID-19 measures. Production then fluctuated around year-earlier levels for the rest of the year.
Year-on-year changes in production were mixed among the largest producing nations. Germany, Italy and Spain all experienced declines, with Italy showing the largest actual decline of 48,000 tonnes (-6%). Italy has been one of the hardest-hit EU countries during the pandemic, and was one of the first to impose national lockdown measures. Many Italian tanneries were affected too, almost entirely closing that sector at the height of the pandemic.
Production in France grew marginally (+0.4%), while in Ireland and the Netherlands production grew by 2%. Ireland showed the largest actual growth of +14,000 tonnes year-on-year. Polish production remained virtually unchanged (-0.2%).
Despite lower production in 2020, the EU grew its exports of fresh and frozen beef by 1.3% from the year before to 461,000 tonnes, slightly more than was forecast before Christmas. Just over 50% of this beef went to the UK, with volumes largely unchanged on the year before. Shipments grew to Asian markets, including Hong Kong and Japan, and to North American markets like Canada and the United States. This, and growth in other markets, was enough to outweigh losses elsewhere, particularly to Algeria.
On the other hand, imports fell by 21% from the year before to 236,400 tonnes. Volumes fell from all key suppliers, but most notably from the UK and Brazil. This is likely due to widespread pandemic related disruption to EU foodservice demand.
Long-term, the European Commission expects that EU beef production will fall, driven by falling dairy and suckler cow numbers. However, falling EU consumption and growing global demand for beef is expected to support export levels from the bloc.