September 2, 2022


Higher feed costs expected to have strong impact on poultry, pork productions in Europe



Summer droughts across Europe have led to a drop in grain and cereals production, raising prices for animal feed which, combined with a lack of pasture land, will potentially have a strong impact on European poultry and pork productions, experts warned.


In recent months, the European Union has experienced one of the worst droughts, with 14 of the 27 member states (Portugal, Italy, Spain, France, Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Croatia) severely affected, according to an analysis from Farm Europe.


These exceptionally hot and dry months have severely impacted EU harvests, especially for cereals and oilseeds, commission representative Michael Scannell reported at a hearing of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee on August 31. This has seen gross cereal production projected to fall by 4% relative to the five-year average, Scannell explained.


However, one of the biggest concerns is maize, where production is expected to fall substantially by 13.7% on the five-year average. This is set to send shockwaves through the livestock sector, due to soaring animal feed costs, compounded by the fact that pasture conditions have also been highly affected by dry weather.


"We will need to remain very sensitive to the impact of that moving forward into the autumn and winter," Scannell said. "And the decisions of livestock farmers on basically how they will keep their animals fed and what it will cost them to do so, and if in those circumstances they decide, for example, to sell their animals."


Some lawmakers in the European Parliament have already mentioned the notable influence on the livestock sector in their countries.


"If I look at livestock, we have a looming disaster," Green MEP Martin Häusling stressed, adding that many farmers are "already using their winter feedstocks to feed the cattle".


"There are some stocks left over from last year. But once those stocks have been exhausted, the question will be about whether there will be culling, or whether some livestock farmers will completely leave the sector," he warned.


The issue was also raised by Social Democrat MEP Clara Aguilera García, who warned that there is a "huge problem in terms of viability in many of the animal husbandry livestock production areas".


Meanwhile, the recent Farm Europe report also warned that farmers are already struggling with the rise in feed prices and other production factors due to the war in Ukraine "now faced with a need for fodder that they may have great difficulty in meeting by the autumn".


Furthermore, these exceptionally dry conditions may become more regular, Scannell warned. "[These summer conditions] are becoming more and more frequent, and our systems need to evolve accordingly," he stressed.


But MEPs were divided as to the best course of action.


While some EU lawmakers, like Liberal Democrat Ulrike Müller and Martin Häusling, criticised the current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for being too short-sighted and lacking incentives for water management and use of technologies, others warned of the trade-off between present and future production.


For example, conservative MEP Veronika Vrecionová warned the commission to tread carefully when it comes up with new green requirements for EU farmers because they "could make the situation even worse".


Addressing the concerns, the commission representative explained that "the commission doesn’t see it as an either-or option", highlighting that the derogations to certain green measures in the CAP, introduced to boost food security in light of the war in Ukraine, "don’t call into question our priority and ensuring also that we confront the challenges of climate change.


"More generally, food security will remain very high as a priority on our radar," Scannell said, adding that measures should not be introduced "blindly", but rather through "finding new, more innovative alternatives".



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